Correa: spending his way to 3rd term?

Having coffee on the fifth floor of a building in the northern part of Quito can be quite an experience. Your mug (and your chair) will tremble every twenty minutes or so. The reason is not earthquakes, but the roar jets of flights.

All that could change next week. Ecuador’s government is moving the airstrip to a new airport in Tababela, 18km outside the capital’s centre, via a public private partnership deal worth over $600m according to government officials

The new airport is perceived by many as being part of president Rafael Correa’s “citizen’s revolution” to overhaul Ecuador’s infrastructure.

It is big public works that, partly, boosted the chances of Correa winning a third term on Sunday, and expand his powerbase in Congress – something that would allow him to deepen his socialist agenda in the smallest of the Opec nations.

Since taking office in 2007, Correa’s government has spent heavily on social plans, education, health as well as big infrastructure projects such as roads and airports.

A bigger government share of oil (alongside high oil prices) and other taxes have helped him to increase government spending by almost 15 per cent, in real terms.

Although works on the new airport started in 2006 months before took Correa, a US-trained economist, took office, his government managed to renegotiate the terms of the contract.

That was a popular move before the eyes of voters, something he has also done with oil companies such as Brazil’s Petrobras that was forced out after refusing to grant the state the lion’s share of its revenues.

However, ironically, despite heavy investments in new Swiss-like highways all over the country, the main road to the new airport is still unfinished and other access channels leave everything to be desired.

According to angry taxi drivers and regular flyers -who estimate the journey from the new airport to the city centre could take up to 90 minutes – the bumpy ride won’t be landing anymore, but getting there.

Related Reading:
Firebrand Correa on road to third term, FT
Vote buying in Latin America, beyondbrics
Ecuador: time to hit the international bond markets?, beyondbrics