The highly popular nation of Ecuador is the quintessential, picturesque South American country that ones imagination conjures up about the continent. Known to locals as four diverse worlds of the Amazon, Galapagos, Andes and the coast, tourism was an inevitable consequence of Ecuador’s vast landscape; however it is oil which is Ecuador’s primary export. Given the recent appreciation of the dollar whilst oil supply diminishes, it has left the country questioning its future as it becomes ever more expensive to be and live in, being a noticeable deterrent to tourists.
From this, it has brought the political and economic situation into bad repute. Despite Ecuador availing from exploiting its oil recourses, the increase in price may be the catalyst for the country entering a time of disarray which newly appointed and aptly named, President Lenin must control to avoid civil unrest similar to that in nearby Venezuela.
This change in fortune is reminiscent of the late 20th century, where Ecuador had previously faced extensive hyperinflation which led to the prudent decision to switch to the US dollar in 2000. This elucidated the value of goods set by the dollar, creating a more strong and stable economy (Theresa May would approve). This is certainly something Lenin will look to avoid but given this is his third term – yet the first for the last ten years – the voting democratic members entrusted his experience to control the situation.
Lenin’s power remains an interesting debate however. He stands for and promulgates the Conservatives ideas, yet the party is fiercely unpopular nationwide. Anyone who attempts to infiltrate or speak up against the government is quietly shunned away, as was a peaceful protest taking place in Quito during my stay. Freedom of speech is an underpinning quality of a democracy which Ecuador would claim to be, yet it seems this democracy ends at the general election and is not a continuance of the government as freedom of speech is nonexistent.
These current social and economic issues aren’t without positives. Ecuador is far ahead of many of its South American compatriots, offering free healthcare and education to all, greatly helping to develop the country and standard of living. The introduction of eduction to the remaining indigenous localities may be viewed by some to be a facile decision however, despite the obvious gains from greater levels of education.
Many may see that view to be of asperity, yet Ecuador is 98% self sufficient in food due to its incredibly successful agriculture. Due to highly fertile, green land provided by the ash of the country’s eight active volcanoes, crops such as roses and bananas grow rife across the country, making them the second and third greatest exports after oil. This agriculture is subject to decline however as a result of free education for indigenous families. Education provides prospects and outweighs any benefit from farming, this therefore leads to the migration of farmers to cities in the pursuit of greater income.
Fears are of obsolete or at least reduced agricultural production in some areas, hindering the nations balance of trade. Some protectionism polices are already in place to mitigate these levels such as a 40% taxation on imported goods which is so far showing to be extremely effective at insuring locally produced goods are consumed instead.
The other unfortunate result of higher levels of education throughout Ecuador is the emigration of the most highly skilled, subsequently causing an unfilled skills gap. The new ascendency of Lenin should look to incentivise those emigrants to remain, whilst a possible review of immigration is being reputed by the locals as 40,000 American expats inhabit Cuenca alone.
Ecuadorean culture remains at the heart of this ever developing country. As the indigenous, Quechuan communities continue to die out as a result of the 1534 Spanish invasion, the cities prosper and take advantage of the money flowing in, but fortunately the culture remains and is everywhere to see to anyone who visits.
Economic difficulty is undoubtedly on the horizon, yet those tourists who choose to visit over those more relatively cheaper South American counties enjoy a wonderfully green and welcoming country. Diverse from its locally grown plantain and yuka to its ever altering landscapes found at the high altitude of Quito and Medio del mundo to the sweeping meanders of the Napo river through the Amazon rainforest.
All I have learnt and written is adduced from talking with local Ecuadoreans who have experienced their country change first hand. They believe that improvements can be made whilst tourism should continue despite the difficulties as there is an abundance of culture and different life to discover