ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Pedro Paez « Une volonté populaire de changement »
by Cathy Ceïbe
Translated Monday 18 February 2013, by
The Ecuadorian former Minister of Economy discusses the reasons for the huge popularity of President Correa and also the ongoing need to take forward new processes of transformation.
What are the reasons for the popularity of President Rafael Corea?
Pedro Paez. His popularity is related to the constitutional process. He has defeated three presidents. And he is in tune with what the popular majority wants. After the return of democracy, there was a huge political dispersion. What we are seeing now is the construction of a popular majority that wants change. This is shown to be true not only in Correa’s candidature but is also reiterated by the other — left and centre-left — candidates.
The social debt inherited from previous governments is one of the main challenges. Has there been real progress here?
Pedro Paez: Yes there has, but much still remains to be done. The Constituent Assembly is the culmination of this as a centre of protestations and national discussions, something hitherto unheard of in the history of the country. There has been a rejection of neoliberal policies and institutions as modes of regulation. The very vocabulary of the discussion has been transformed by the rupture with the epistemology and axiology of neoliberalism. This has opened the way for a new regime of accumulation, that is to say, other relations to state institutions, the private sector, the local economy, going as far as the intervention of the State in the economy, its orientation and its investment priorities, as well as the redistribution of wealth. There have been significant measures taken — even if they remain partial — concerning the minimum wage and the citizen’s basic salary, known as "the human development coupon" received by 40% of poor families.
Pedro Paez: Internal market dynamics have changed since the period of neoliberalism, the priority of which was the external market, the continual reduction of labour costs and the exploitation of nature. The consequence was the stifling of domestic markets. In 1980, even before the neoliberal madness, 30% of the economy was dependent on external trade. Today, despite all efforts, 87% of economic activity comes from imports, exports and remesas (remittances) from migrants. A profound shift is still needed. Internal mechanisms must be further stimulated, public investment boosted more strongly, even though there has already been significant progress in this direction. Public investment has increased from 4% over the last thirty years to 16% in 2012. Unfortunately, the private sector has not engaged in this process of change. Instead of investing in production capacity and creating jobs, it has focused on imports, and that even though our economy is dollarized. Hence the importance of such new infrastructures nationally, regionally and internationally, as the Banque du Sud, the regional common currency, SUCRE, and a Regional Investment Fund as an alternative to the International Monetary Fund.
Interview by Cathy Ceïbe