By Peter Tase
Since January 2007, the government of Ecuador, under the leadership of President Rafael Correa, has pursued economic reforms that have alleviated poverty, built sustainable cities, reduced pollution, reduced unemployment and brought transparency and the war against corruption at the forefront.
President Correa, an economist educated in Europe and United States, has garnered popularity through his administration’s successes in funding large public works projects, improvement of public schools’ infrastructure and has increased oil prices.
According to Nick Miroff of the Washington Post, President Correa: “represents a new model of Latin American leadership: economically populist, socially conservative …and seemingly unbeatable at election time. Polls consistently put his approval rating between 60 and 85 percent, making him one of the region’s most popular leaders.” When elected president for the third time, Mr. Correa won by a landslide majority and won 57% of the votes.
President Rafael Correa has been very successful to position his country at a global stage by applying a very effective Foreign Policy, a broad presence of international trade offices extending from China to South Africa and from almost every European Country to Australia and South Asia. Under his leadership, Ecuador joined the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas in June, 2009 and has emerged as one of the most influential and popular leaders in Latin America’s regional organizations and beyond, even the government of Italy has expressed an interest to become more familiar with Quito’s domestic policies embraced over the last seven years.
These reforms have made a major positive impact, nationwide, as Mr. Verselino Noteno, a beneficiary residing in the city of Putumayo,states: “we also need to live with dignity, to have schools and health services. We are happy with the government and it has kept its word, they gave us housing. There are many of us who refrain to live in misery. In Putumayo 85 percent of the population is illiterate, with these projects we aspire to have our kids as young professionals and in the future they would support their local communities.”
Since April 30th, 2013, The Government of Ecuador has had Mr. Patricio René Rivera Yánez as the new Minister Coordinator for Economic Policies. As a 34 years old economist, Mr. Rivera Yanez was Deputy Undersecretary of Public Investment and Corporate Management in the Ministry of Planning and National Development (SENPLADES). Minister Rivera’s objectives are to reduce poverty, promote social justice, improve the national economy and increase its productivity.
On July 2nd, 2014, the National Secretariat for Public Administration announced that Ecuador had improved its ranking by 19 points in the United Nations’ Electronic Government Survey namely: “E-GOVERNMENT FOR THE FUTURE WE WANT”, now Ecuador is ranked in the 83rd position among the 193 countries worldwide, while in 2012 index was ranked as the 102nd. Additionally, the same study has recognized the government of President Rafael Correa, as one of the top twenty countries in the Americas that have experienced a medium-high economic development. The UN ranking system gathers relevant information from all member countries that are connected to the development of information technology and communications tools that are considered to be strategic in order to enable efficiency and transparency in the governing institutions.
Since May 2014, Ecuadorian Ministry of Public Administration has embraced new trends and has adopted new technologies which make government offices more relevant to all Ecuadorians and local businesses. Thanks to these dynamic initiatives, Quito aspires to broaden the public participation in the decision making process, improve access to information, improve transparency, remove bureaucratic barriers to public services, and strive to secure a well inclusive economic growth and sustainable development nationwide.
In 2013, studies undertaken by the UN Economic Commission for Latin America have claimed that Ecuador’s prosperity has been further strengthened due to its expansion of public investments. The government of President Rafael Correa is one of the largest investors in the region trailed by the governments of: Bolivia, Cuba, Panama, Peru and Venezuela.
In recent years, Ecuador has experienced an overall dynamic growth and President Correa’s economic reforms have had a positive impact in the strengthening of the construction and public works sectors. Quito has accomplished the highest public investment levels in the national history, not as a result of maintaining high prices of oil, but thanks to other positive factors such as: the renegotiation of external debt (by reducing or eliminating the interest rate the government saves US$ 300 million annually), the elimination of trusts to ensure the debt payment, return of public savings, improving the trading and marketing of its crude oil reserves as well as the implementation of a transparent procurement system.
President Correa’s government aims to further strengthen its public investments in key strategic sectors which contribute towards a sustained economic growth. After January, 2007, when President Rafael Correa took the oath of office, his government begun to promote projects in strategic sectors while securing lucrative loans from the People’s Republic of China and other regional multilateral organizations. Such actions have helped Ecuador to revive its economy and withstand the shocks of the global financial crisis.
In 2012, the government invested US$4,800 million that were destined to finance the construction of various hydroelectric power stations, social projects in several parts of the country for the vulnerable sectors of society and technology for national security and the justice system. In 2011 public investments reached approximately US$ 4.698 million. In 2013, the public investment in Ecuador represented 22 percent of the national budget reaching US$7.052 million.
According to the National Secretariat of Planning and Development (SENPLADES), the public investment represented around 14 percent of the Gross Domestic Product. The 2013 Annual Investment Plan (PAI) prioritized the capacity building programs: allocated US$ 2,041.66 million in the Social Development sector (29% of total PAI) and US$ 1,250.08 million to the production sector (18%), especially for a new employment generation and development of the domestic industry. Ecuador invested US$ 1,974.33 million (28%) for Strategic Sectors: public works, technological breakdown and infrastructure. The Promotion of knowledge, research, development and innovation reached US$ 646.85 million (9%) it was intended for the sector of acquiring new talents and promote professional training. In 2013, investments were allocated according to President Correa’s National Plan of Good Living (2013-2017). 
Some of the most important projects executed in 2013 are: Metro system of Quito, Tram of Cuenca, New Education infrastructure, Hydroelectric projects, National Road Infrastructure System and The city of Knowledge which is designed to promote technological innovation, negotiations and knowledge, were cutting edge infrastructure meets human talent. This is the first Hub in Latin America that will be focused on research and technology. It will have the first University of Investigation of Experimental Technology, with participation of public and private institutions; there will be centers of technological transfer, enterprises of advanced technology in agricultural and agro industrial sectors of Ecuador.
According to various national experts, this center will generate applications and innovative processes that will be beneficial to the whole world. 
In 2012 Ecuador grew up to 6.5 percent and its economy expanded by 5.35 percent, indeed it was one of the highest rates in the region. In a press conference, President Rafael Correa said that public investment in Ecuador, during the period of 2007 – 2011, almost doubled the amount of oil revenues received by the central government. In 2011, the net revenues of the state were US$ 12,772,000 while investment in this period reached US$ 23,803 million therefore Ecuador became “the country with the largest public investment sector in Latin America.”
The industrial and agricultural production sectors acknowledge the ever increasing purchasing power that Ecuadorian population has currently attained. In 2012, minimum wage was raised from US$ 264 to US$ 292 per month. The reduction of urban poverty reached 4.8 percent, the economic growth of GDP was up to 9 percent and President Correa’s administration accomplished the lowest unemployment rate in Latin America, reaching the level of 5.5 percent. Furthermore, with a coefficient of 0.495, Ecuadorian society has become better inclusive than Colombia (0,578), Brazil (0,576), Chile (0,524) or Panama (0.521).
Henry Kronfle Kozhaya, president of the Guayaquil Chamber of Industries, said that the current stability, “which has been embraced in the last five years by the executive branch, has been very important for the economic growth of the country, as for many years a chief of state could not complete his term in office.”
Mr. Kronfle adds: “The socio-economic inclusion policy promoted by this government has had a big impact because it has increased the purchasing power of the population.” According to Mr. José Centeno, president of the Chamber of Construction Companies, the government’s investment in public works proved to be very important in order to invigorate this sector in recent years and maintain a 14% annual growth: “the government, with its housing plans for the working class, makes home ownership an easy process. There is a high demand for building materials because of a large scale implementation of public works.”
The construction sector is among the most developed sectors that make up a significant percentage of Ecuador’s GDP. The National Housing policies, construction of new bridges and other public works have generated jobs for thousands of citizens.
On November 5-7, 2012, during the “Second Regional Meeting of People’s and Nationalities by Sumak Kawsay, plurality, intercultural values, UNASUR, ALBA and CAN United for life and harmony,” Fabricio Proaño the Minister of Political Coordination, gave a presentation on the implementation of public policies in Ecuador. This event was held at the plenary hall of the National Assembly of Ecuador. In his statement, Minister Proaño stated that Latin American people are with a matured conscience and have decided to escape from the centuries old oppression, as of now their direct and real participation in the socio-political processes is always required. Minister Proaño explained that the Plurinational State proposes a permanent participation and social control in the decision making process, leaving behind the separation between state and civil society and recognizes diversity and autonomous pluralism, economic diversity and reliable justice system – political in the context of a having a new state model, which requires that pluri-nationality be taken as a reality and intercultural reality as a tool for action.
“One of the implications of Sumaj Kawsay was to recognize the values of ancient thought and return its space that was taken away from the hegemonic positions, without considering, for example, the green revolution that proposes the Good Living in order to combat the environmental catastrophe of today’s world.” This meeting was organized by the Government of the Republic of Ecuador and the Embassy of the Plurinational State of Bolivia, it included the participation of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) and the Andean Community of Nations (CAN), they all seek to develop and strengthen the active participation of social organizations of peoples and nations of the region, while discussing in the context of Sumaj Kawsay paradigm the ancestral knowledge and practices in a intercultural environment.
Some of the other topics discussed in this forum were: “Indicators of Sumaj Kawsay”; “Development of Public Policies based on the guidelines of Sumaj Kawsay”; “Plurinationallity and Inter cultural aspects”; “Actions for the development of Public Policies based on the guidelines of Sumaj Kawsay”; “actions and rights for the development and defense of Mother Earth”; “Ensuring Food Security and autonomy” and “Constitutional Justice of Sumaj Kawsay”.
On March 2014, Sustainable Trip, a tourism information website, certified by Rainforest Alliance, announced that Ecuador has become the Country of Fashion. This article highlights the five reasons to visit Ecuador, while reaching a record number of tourists and having a 20 percent increase compared with the previous year (2013). The report states that Ecuador is one of the hottest destinations of 2014, for newspapers, travel magazines, websites and blogs of travelers have affirmed over the past months.Among the reasons why Ecuador was chosen by the World Travel Awards as “the Green Destiny of the Year,”are: the country is home to 33 natural reserves protected by the Government, it is home to many other areas of tropical forest possessing considerable biodiversity; the immense wealth of natural and cultural diversity, species of birds, butterflies, orchids, reptiles, amphibians, mammals and other species; the natural values of the Sangay reserves and Galapagos Islands and 27 nationalities living in the country. It must be remembered that business generated by tourism is also supported closely by the State in order to promote sustainable practices that have transformed Quito into a regional leader in sustainable tourism.
The publication also dedicates a whole paragraph only to the Galapagos, which by its beauty and diversity need no introduction, but always will be remembered that it was the natural laboratory where Charles Darwin developed his theory of evolution of the island of species. It also emphasizes that Ecuador is the new Latin American King of chocolate, both because it is the leading exporter of fine cocoa with aroma, such as fine chocolates made by Ecuadorian hands, many of which can be found on the Cocoa Route while taking a scenic train on the Durán–Yaguachi route. Finally, the last reason to visit Ecuador, according to the Rainforest Alliance, is the variety that any type of traveler including natural hideouts housed in the Amazon, the majesty of the Andes, the beauty of the coast, or because Ecuador sits on the Equator, where there is located a tourist town, without neglecting the many other beautiful cities the country possesses, many of which can be discovered on a trip with a luxurious Train ride linking the two major cities of Ecuador. 
On June 25th, 2013, Ecuador led the XII Meeting of Foreign Ministers of the Organization of the Treaty of Cooperation in the Amazon (Organización del Tratado de Cooperación Amazónica (OTCA)), together with eight other countries in order to develop the Amazon region. In this meeting the member nations discussed the academic and scientific research and the improvement of sustainable projects of the Amazon region. There was also discussed the creation of the Amazon Research Centers and on May 3rd, in the ACTO was reached a multilateral agreement that ensured the exchange of information and research within the research center directed by all member countries. These centers are expected to collect data concerning the existing natural heritage in the Amazon basin for research and documentation.Furthermore, the delegations committed themselves to validate and update the research and knowledge acquired through the area study of the Amazon as well as achieves academic mobility for students, teachers and academics and establishes a network of researchers focused on the Amazon region.
On March 5th, 2013, the Ministry for Knowledge and Human Talent Coordination signed an agreement of academic and research cooperation with Yasuní-ITT, in which the Regional Amazonian University (IKIAM) was also included, as it is a national scientific institution. The objective of this agreement was to join the efforts to initiated scientific research as a basis for conservation projects and promote sustainable use of natural resources in the Amazon region. The interest of the two institutions is to integrate the Amazonian region in an area where research and sustainable development are conducted at the national level and prepare students to assume the tremendous challenge of intelligent exploitation of natural resources and adopt ways to improve environmental conservation.
Tania Lozada, IKIAM project manager, expressed her satisfaction at the signing of the document that brings together two major initiatives led by the national government dedicated to the conservation and intelligent use of natural resources and research. This agreement set the framework to work upon the consolidation process of the Initiatives pertaining to the Amazon and future involvement of foreign agencies.
Ivonne Baki, Secretary of State of this Initiative, stated that this partnership enables academic and scientific discovery in the Yasuni ITT, as a national laboratory for the world. Meanwhile, Augusto Espinosa, Minister for Knowledge and Talent Coordination, said that the signing of this agreement also aims “to have the Amazon emerge as a place that is marked by new careers focused towards science, research and sustainable development.”The central goal of the Yasuní-ITT Initiative is not to exploit the oil rich block of Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputini in Yasuni National Park, in order to conserve biodiversity, avoiding the emission of 407 million tons of CO2 in the atmosphere. Ecuador has requested to the international community, under the principles of shared responsibility, a compensation equivalent to at least US$ 3,600 million, which is half of what the country would get from the operation of such oil rich sites. These funds are destined to be used for changing the national energy matrix; effective conservation of protected areas; reforestation of one million hectares of forest; increasing energy efficiency; social development in the Amazon where this initiative is focused; and technological research and development.
As of 2013, the Yasuní Initiative has raised US$ 330 million, from 19 countries and 20 international organizations while the fundraising goal was to obtain an additional US$ 244 million. Meanwhile IKIAM has prepared its academic statutes, curricula and waiting for its prompt enactment to become one of the most important, ambitious and strategic projects of the Ecuadorian nation, as a higher education center of excellence and a world-class research located in the Amazon. 
On October 24-26, 2012, the Government of Ecuador and the World Heritage Centre of UNESCO conducted an international meeting entitled “World Heritage and Extreme Poverty” in order to reflect on the importance that cultural assets have in Ecuador towards the fight against poverty.In this event, many experts from France, Bolivia, Mexico and United States, discussed the relationship between the national heritage and sustainable development.Maria Fernanda Espinosa, the Minister Coordinator for Cultural Heritage stated that: “UNESCO established an alliance with Ecuador in order to calculate the numbers to the economy of cultural patrimony within the fight against poverty.”
Thus recalling how the train system could benefit the country towards job creation and economic development. Minister Espinosa said that the Government has invested US$250 million in asset development. She also recalled that the Citizen Revolution was responsible for recovering the memory of citizens, for example, extolling the culinary art, music, or more tangible objects Ecuadorian heritage.
Minister Espinoza stated that President Correa’s government has invested US$ 250 million in cultural assets development. She also recalled that citizens’ revolution was responsible for recovering the memory of citizens, for example cherishing the culinary art, music or more tangible objects of Ecuadorian cultural heritage.
The event was attended by Nuria Sanz, head of the Unit for Latin American and the Caribbean of the World Heritage Centre of UNESCO, Rémy Prud’homme, professor at the University of Paris XII, Janice Perlman, president of The Mega-Cities Project, and other international guests. Ecuador has also a vibrant Afro Ecuadorian Community which is an important part of the cultural diversity in the Andean nation. Every year this community holds an annual celebration which has become the hallmark of their cultural activities and an attraction point for international visitors and anthropologists. 
In his latest visit to Quito, in May 27th, 2013, the Italian Deputy Foreign Minister, Mario Giro, expressed his government’s interest to become more familiar with the economic development model of Ecuador, as President Correa’s reforms are considered unique in the World, especially the National Plan of Good Welfare which is being implemented under his second presidential mandate (2013-2017).
After attending President Correa’s official ceremony of the oath of office, Mr. Giro had a meeting with Mr. Fander Falconi, the Minister of National Planning and Development, with whom he touched upon the accomplishments and challenges that the Ecuadorian government has to tackle in order to deepen the positive changes, continue with the fight against poverty, promoting new ways of production through changing the production matrix.
Mr. Pabel Muñoz, the Undersecretary for the Democratization of the State, emphasized that this policy of development is accompanied from a different type of government which is consolidating the public’s voice, its capacity to plan and bring a new breed of development that has an emphasis in redistribution that overcomes a bourgeoisie country and establishes democratic public policies. 
An important aspect of President Correa’s reforms in the development of ecological tourism centers so that they generate income for local communities and improve their welfare. Ecuadorian government officials are undoubtedly becoming an example of effective leadership in the region, while pursuing a vibrant agenda towards improving transparency, adopting best practices in sustainable development and implementing environmental friendly policies that have a positive impact regionally and globally.