Ecuador announces tourist, commercial plan post quake

By Senabri Silvestre

SANTO DOMINGO, Dom. Rep. (AA) – The government of Ecuador on Wednesday announced an economic plan to help tourist and commercial zones affected by a recent earthquake.

The plan includes opening lines of credit, tax exemptions, hiring local labor and bonuses and preferential loan rates for housing.

“The reconstruction plan is dynamic and will be nourished with contributions derived directly from the needs of the areas,” said Vinicio Alvarado, minister of coordinator of production, employment and competitiveness.

The reconstruction initiative will be led by the national planning secretary with assistance from the United Nations and the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, or ECLAC, a U.N.-lead regional economic bloc.

One of the top priorities is to promote employment in the affected areas, according to Alvarado, who said Labor Minister Leonardo Barrezueta would create a database with names of building laborers to emphasize local hiring.

Local banks will provide refinancing and restructure credit operations. And one institution has activated a $70 million credit line with preferential conditions for working capital and mortgage loans.

Public banks will provide approximately $200 million for credit operations.

Nearly 7,000 businesses were partially or fully affected by the tremor, mainly in the commercial and cultural sector.

The provinces of Esmeralda and Manabí were the most devastated by the April 16 magnitude-7.8 quake that struck the country’s northern coast and killed 659, wounded 27,732 and left 29,067 in need of shelters.

Since the quake, Ecuador has received international aid and support from various governments seeking to help the country deal with the biggest humanitarian catastrophe in the region since a tremor hit Haiti in 2010.

President Ollanta Humala of Peru and Bolivian President Evo Morales on Wednesday visited Ecuador to help with the most urgent needs.

Both leaders met with Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa and toured the heavily damaged area of Manta.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, who visited Ecuador on Sunday, was the first foreign leader to do so after the quake.