By John Williams
As an expat, it takes a while to figure out what is “normal” in your new surroundings and culture. Everyone and everything is different, and some have a very hard time adjusting to the way things are in their new land. They are the ones who often end up returning to “home,” where they are more comfortable. Depending on who is counting, the number of who return “home” is somewhere between 40% – 60% in the first 3 years. But for many, the very nature of the expat experience is adapting to change, and that itself, is a big part of exercising our adventurous spirit. But now, we face another huge adaptation period period of change, but this time we will be adapting along with everyone else in our adopted country. And this one is different … very different.
Forget about the old days. They are gone. Forget about the old ways of doing things. They are gone. We are facing things our parents never faced. Your children are facing things that you, as a child, never faced. Everything has changed … .completely … categorically. And forget about your belief in a return to normal. There is no normal.
What about the Economy?
A significant economic milestone was accomplished in early August when over 90% of Ecuador’s largest creditors agreed to restructure the terms of their debt significantly.  Ecuador’s economic team did an excellent job of getting well out in front of the debt issue, and their forthright approach has been rewarded. Like all Latin American countries, Ecuador has significant debt, and the Covid-19 pandemic has significantly crippled its economic outlook. But with the debt restructure in place, an immediate major debt default was avoided, and while the path to economic recovery is still long and hard, at least there is a path. Some of Ecuador’s Latin American counterparts have taken a more adversarial stance with their creditors and are still facing down a future of complete economic ruin. Ecuador will need to keep its budgets lean while it rebuilds its revenues, but that is a fact that every country in the world now has to address. The wisdom of using the U.S. dollar as its official currency has also provided Ecuador with currency stability that few in Latin America have . It’s rough … it’s rocky … but there is a path.
Will business and industry recover?
The major industries that provide tax revenues and jobs in Ecuador are petroleum, agriculture and food processing, aquaculture, forestry, textiles, and the service sector, including tourism . The service sector contributes 55% of the GDP, industry 33%, and manufacturing 16%. Oil accounts for approximately 50% of exported goods, and a third of the country’s tax revenue. While all business sectors have seen significant reductions during the Covid-19 pandemic, some will bounce back more easily if, and when the rest of the world economies rebound. The demand for oil, food, and textiles is driven by world economic conditions as much as, or more so than the intra-Ecuador forces. We will see additional difficulty in the recovery period because the world demand for petroleum is down, and is predicted to stay relatively low for several years, as the slowdown in economic activity has produced a worldwide oil supply glut. When airplanes don’t fly, and engines don’t run, they don’t use fuel. No one, including this author, knows how and when the world’s economies will recover from the Covid-19 pandemic, but eventually, economic recovery will happen, and the resources of Ecuador will always have a market.
How will life and society function in the recovery period and beyond?
What will we have learned as a society from this pandemic experience? And how will we function differently when we emerge, one step at a time?
Most of us are anxiously waiting for a Covid-19 vaccine to so that we can “return to normal”. However, will that reality be similar to how it life was before the pandemic? Covid-19 has changed life as we knew it. Everything from our social gatherings to our daily errands has been completely changed, and those adjustments will not go away quickly, nor completely. The whole world is eagerly awaiting a Covid-19 vaccine for the safety of ourselves and of our loved ones, and for the return of life as we know knew it. One thing that is important to remember, is that this is not going to be one of those light switch occurrences, when all of a sudden we have a vaccine and everyone is automatically vaccinated. It’s going to take some time,” said Hilary Godwin, Dean of the University of Washington’s School of Public Health. “We have several vaccine candidates under development, but the chance of any single one of those being super effective is not great.”
In the USA, the work of lifelong medical experts and public health professionals has been politicized to the point where too many now have been brainwashed into thinking of vaccines and routine common-sense health measures as are “plots” by the government. A much smaller subset in Ecuador might refuse to get vaccines even after one, (or more), has been proven viable. But Ecuador’s government has steadfastly shown that it is trying to follow experts’ advice, and the impact of anti-expert rebels should be much less of a problem here than it will be in the USA.
What should we expect as we move through the recovery period?
Experts believe that:
-We will become more of a “mask-wearing “ society as many people will continue to try to protect themselves and their families
-There will be fewer vacation and business trips and more remote work opportunities
-Enough people will resist attending concerts, sporting events and other large group activities that they will be slow to return for several years
-There will be additional and significant psychological, societal and cultural impacts
-We will end up with a public health system that is more prepared to handle epidemics and pandemics
-We should anticipate continuing levels of discord throughout communities.
-The virus won’t go away completely
To prepare for the journey ahead we should all make sure that we have our personal affairs in order. If Covid-19 has taught us anything it is that we cannot see or even really imagine what the future holds. Prudence says that in order to protect ourselves and our loved ones we should each have a will that is valid in Ecuador, a Medical Power of Attorney for our care if we get sick, and a Medical ID card to alert emergency medical providers to our specific needs. There is an online service package from the legal service firm EcuaAssist (www.ecuaassist.com), that has a platform to help with all these needs. Do it before you need it. To learn more about it click this link
On the positive side of the ledger, Ecuador still has many of the strengths that it has always had; Ecuador is not dependent on others for the food to feed its people, the oil to run its equipment, and it also owns a plentiful supply of clean water. In addition, Ecuador also has direct-port access to the whole world, a stable national currency, strong and abundant fishing, and fertile agricultural lands. The country is filled with diverse and plentiful natural beauty and generous, kind people.
Stronger than many of its Latin American counterparts, Ecuador will still be standing when the new normal arrives, and her people will adapt and grow stronger as the pandemic becomes a memory. As before, the government will change regularly and peacefully, and the search for strong, honest leadership will continue.
John Williams is an expat from the USA who has been living on the coast of Ecuador since September, 2017. He is a freelance contract writer for International Living Magazine, Let’s Talk Nevada, Nevada-Today, Ecuador Insider, Fund Your Life Overseasand other publications.