Ecuadorian Ambassador to Nigeria, His Excellency, Leopoldo Rovayo, says there is a sense of change in his country, just as he stresses that accountability of public funds is taken seriously as any citizen can walk into the office of the Secretary General and demand for the accounts of any ministry or Agency. The Ambassador, who represents the interest of the fourth smallest country in Southern America that got its independence on 24th May, 1822, says Ecuadorians believe that public funds is not personal funds. In this interview with AUSTIN JOHNSON, the envoy says how a given people process or manage conflict will influence on its society, adding that it is difficult to develop under violence
What is the mainstay of Ecuador’s economy?
Ecuador has many streams of income and natural resources. It has petroleum at a production level of 30,000 barrel per day. We also have a booming fishing industry, cocoa plantations that is exported both raw and finished products since the 19th century. We have a chocolate industry which exports sweet. Our climate makes it conducive for the cultivation of roses and other flowers for export. At present, mining is ongoing in the southern part by a Chinese firm, especially copper.
Why is Ecuador operating a dollar currency economy?
In 1999, we had a financial crisis in which no fewer than 17 banks went bankrupt. The then government deemed it fit to eliminate the printing of its local currency that was becoming expensive to manage and thereby adopted the American dollar as the country’s official currency. The authority also eliminated any form of monetary policy. With the Dollar, it becomes easier to engage in international trades and canvass for markets even in Nigeria. This policy has helped our country to reduce time and cut wastage in our monetary policies and regulations.
What are the impacts of falling global oil prices on your country’s economy?
Ecuador is not an exemption from this phenomenon. The new government in place appointed a minister of Petroleum, a retired technocrat, Mr. Carlos Perez Garcia, just like you have in Nigeria, to manage the oil industry. He has done well by re-negotiating existing contracts to suit the interest of the nation. The government is cutting down cost of exploitation of petroleum, developing new electric power stations by using hydro power and rechanneling the gasoline for more efficiency in order to reduce cost of power generation that will stimulate the economy.
Ecuador started diversification of its economy over 20 years ago. We do not solely depend on oil revenue. We have developed our cocoa industry for export of both finished and unfinished products. Though, we concentrate on the finished products to earn more because it has competitive advantage. We are also a major exporter of bananas in the world, though the revenue is not much. We are a developing economy like Nigeria that is trying to attract multinational companies. Our new government does not tolerate corruption. There is a sense of change in the country. Accountability of public funds is taken seriously. You can walk into the office of the Secretary General and demand for the accounts of any ministry or Agency. You can even Google online to see how each department makes their expenses. We believe that it is public funds, not personal funds.
Do you have the problem of prison congestion in Ecuador?
Society revolves around people. The new government is fighting corruption which takes time to conclude an alleged case. The government does not interfere in judicial cases as it does not interfere in the activities of the establishments. They are independent and accountable to the public. Though, there are high cases of violence against women. Last year, there were recorded 30 cases of women assassinated by their partners simply because they are women. We are trying to inculcate values into our people. There is deliberate law or criminal policy guiding women against violence from their husbands or male friends. When you kill a woman because she is woman, the law will not spear such people. As a society, we also have criminals but the law is taking it course.
What is the rate of illiteracy in your country?
It is about three per cent of the 16 million people of Ecuador. We have free education from primary to secondary school levels. It is publicly owned. Despite the provision of free school you will still meet people who can’t go because of family challenges. We have about 1.5 million Ecuadorians living abroad like in the United States of America, Spain and Italy. Our people love to travel but immigration policies make it difficult for these travels.
What is the position of the Lago and Yasuni rainforests destroyed by Chevron due to oil exploitation?
There was no compensation. The court case was won by Chevron. Since the government of Ecuador respect courts judgements, the case was considered closed.
How cordial is Ecuador’s relationship with its neighbouring countries?
We do not have many challenges; though in 1998 we closed our border with Peru over some disagreements. However, Peru and Colombia are our trading partners. As you know, Colombia had a serious challenge with the FARC rebel group of which our country mediated towards the reintegration of the FARC members, since they are our neighbours. It, therefore, means that whatever affect them could indirectly affect us. We are hoping that the peace negotiation ongoing with the ELN, which took place in Ecuador in February this year, will be resolved amicably towards ending the 52-year guerilla war. We have over 16,000 Colombians in Ecuador as refugees.
Do you have Rebels activities in Ecuador?
Personally, it beats my imagination as to why we don’t. Though I have observed the policies of our past leaders and former presidents to be responsible for the peace we have enjoyed. In 1895, there was a policy called the Liberal Revolution. The then President developed a system of Education that targeted youths. She created small schools clusters to train teachers for the schools. It was compulsory and very effective. That before age 20 or 21-year old, one becomes a teacher. The policy assigned one teacher to six degree students or Pupils. This is why literacy rate in Ecuador is high. So, Ecuador uses access to education to fight societal vices. The policy has helped to curb or curtail the emergence of rebel groups in the country.
Ecuador has a societal concept of dialogue. This culture teaches people to dialogue on everything that seems to bring conflict or violence and to reject any form of aggression. We taught ourselves that violence is evil and unacceptable. Why kill your brother or wife for nothing? But, you know, human beings are still human. In Ecuador, we have value for human life. We see life as sacred. Nobody has right to take another’s life. We see ourselves as Ecuadorian before tribal loyalty. How you process or manage conflict will influence on the society. It is difficult to develop under violence.
We have over $50m bonds for citizenry social welfare to help the less privilege. It is not all members of the society or a family that goes to school. To some, they have to go farms or take care of the older ones.
How would you describe your country’s relationship with Nigeria?
I can describe it as very cordial. Ecuadorian technicians are trying to develop a technology for the Nigerian National oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) on related oil spill, though, it is not fast as we envisaged. I have been trying to build bridges that will benefit both countries. Nigerians are good and loving people.
What is the focus of your country’s foreign policy?
Our foreign policy trust is peaceful co-existence. Being a small nation, we need multinational co-operations and bilateral alliances. No country survives alone. We also have a multi-national corporations and our Latin America integration at heart.