What will Noboa do about fuel subsidies? Chilean artisans featured during Cuenca holidays; Biggest nativity scene; Conaie presents demands
Although it received little attention during the recent presidential campaign, Ecuador’s new government will be forced to reckon with the contentious issue of fuel subsidies.
“This has been swept under the rug by governments for 30 years but the cost has become so massive it cannot ignored for much longer,” says former Finance Ministry deputy director Gustavo Ramos. “Today, the cost is approaching $5 billion, which happens to be the size of the budget deficit, but it could easily reach $6 billion or $6.5 billion by the end of 2024. It is killing us but no one wants to talk about it. Everyone is scared to death of another Conaie strike and all attempts to create a subsidy targeting plan have failed.”
Besides crime, Ramos says that the subsidies are the biggest issue Daniel Noboa will face in his 18 months in office. “Given the state of the country’s finances, the only option for not radically reducing subsidies is a major tax increase.”
Ramos adds that the amount paid in subsidies surpassed all expenditures for education, health services and other social spending in 2022.
Besides subsides for gasoline, diesel and LP gas, there is a new concern about subsidies for imported electricity. “Most people have not paid much attention to the electricity subsidy but we are hearing now that the price of kilowatt hours purchased from Colombia has doubled and this could cost the country hundreds of millions – assuming Colombia still has excess power to sell,” says Carlos Arias, petroleum consultant.
Arias agrees with Ramos that the issue of fuel subsides can no longer be ignored. “We must face the fact that there is no such thing as a free lunch. Ecuador has become addicted to subsidies and it is time to break that addiction. Let’s see what Noboa does about it.”
CIDAP to feature Chilean artisans during Cuenca holidays
The Inter-American Center for Crafts and Popular Arts (CIDAP) has invited more than 180 artisans from nine Latin American countries to participate in its annual craft show and sales during the Cuenca Foundation holidays. Chile was selected as the featured country and selected Chilean artisans will present their work in a pavilion in the CIDAP courtyard at the Hermano Miguel escalinata and Paseo Tres de Noviembre.
According to CIDAP event organizers, the 2023 edition of its Festival of Handicrafts of the Americas will be the largest ever. In addition to exhibitors who will occupy kiosks in the CIDAP courtyard, others will be positioned along the Rio Tomebamba near the museum.
The CIDAP Cuenca holiday crafts show and sale begins November 1 and ends November 5.
Largest nativity scene displayed at Old Cathedral
With 1,600 figures, 80 buildings, a 26-meter river and a variety of atmospheric features, a 270-square-meter (2,900 square feet) nativity scene is nearing completion in Cuenca’s Old Cathedral. According to its builders, it is the largest nativity scene in Latin America and possibly in the world.
The project is the creation of Catholic Priest Jimmy Arias, who began work on it 19 years. Although Arias died during the Covid-19 pandemic, his five assistants have continued the work and are responsible for the display in the Old Cathedral, at the corner of Calle Luis Cordoro and Mariscal Sucre, opposite Parque Calderon.
The completed nativity scene, which its constructors say even includes elements of rain, fog, snow, will be open to the public on October 21.
Conaie presents demands to the new government
Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities President Leonidas Iza has presented a list of 15 demands to President-elect Daniel Noboa, saying the organization will be on the lookout for “neoliberal tendencies” in the new government.
Iza said he respects the popular vote in the presidential election but wants Noboa to fulfill promises made by previous governments. “We were promised many things by Moreno and Lasso following the strikes of 2019 and 2022 but most of these were not kept,” Iza said. “We are asking Daniel Noboa to make good on these with concrete actions.”