Friends here keep asking me what I think about the future of Ecuador, with the likelihood that Andres Arauz will win the April 11th Presidential run-off election.
All I can tell them is that from what I read, Arauz will return the country to the ways of Rafael Correa—and this means a return to being shunned by the international finance groups, an increase in long-term debt that will be financed by China at egregious rates, a failure to honor its prior debts (most of which Correa created, taking the country from $12B in debt to $74B in debt by the end of his second term), and in general, a complete financial collapse of the country.
Sound dire? Well, it’s what I think from what I’ve read. And I’ve read a lot. Both national and international publications. I’ve also read Arauz’s platform.
And everything points to problems for this country if (when) he gets elected.
Once I’ve shared that opinion, I then get asked what my friends should do with their investment accounts and their properties that they have here.
Now, this is really where it gets “sticky.” Because whatever I tell them I think they should do, means that I should be doing the same thing. And that means big, BOLD moves. Like selling all their properties and cashing out their CD’s. And then leaving the country.
But to do what then? Invest in the US stock market? No. Invest in crypto currency? Not now. Buy property in the US? Maybe, if you can afford it. Move to Portugal/Spain/Panama/Czech Republic? Not now.
You see where I’m going here? It seems to me that nothing in the world is any more solid an investment, or life plan, than Ecuador.
So, is all this worry of who becomes President necessary?
Well, to this I say, YES. Because long-term, if he gets elected, and stays in power, and then perhaps takes on Correa as his Vice President after he changes the courts, this country will be on a path to collapse. It can’t print its own money, so it has to deal with its debts, not build them up (remember, Arauz is the guy promising to give the one million poorest families in Ecuador $1,000 so that they will “restart” the economy).
And there is also the “digital currency” that he keeps talking about. He’s changed his position on that several times. So, you can’t trust anything he has said about it, especially about backing it with the dollar. Would the US even allow that?
Here is my fear: those of us with properties will see their values plummet when the economy here stalls or fails. Because like the huge financial investors that will turn from the country, fewer expats and wealthy Ecuadorians will be looking to invest in more properties here. They simply won’t. And if they don’t, prices will fall.
Its’ really simple economics. Lack of demand means a fall in prices. How low will it go?
That’s really the big question. I don’t know, but I suspect it won’t be a number any of us are willing to live with.
And we should also talk about our certificates of deposit (CDs) that we are so happy to have here earning 8-9%. These may still exist in the future. But keep in mind that Arauz wants to take over the banking in the country and to drop loan rates to 3%, and also give some people these loans for 10 years interest-free.
He can’t do that with only the one government bank (Banco del Pacifico). He is going to pressure the private banks to lower their interest rates as well [I support this actually; it is ridiculous that people are paying 13-15% for a car or home mortgage].
What this means for me is that if Arauz is elected, Ecuador can no longer be looked at as an investment, but rather as a lifestyle choice. Raising the question, “Is living here so much better than living somewhere else?”
I don’t have the answer to that. Some days the frustration with dealing with the ways of Ecuador make me say, “No, it’s not.” Other days, when getting something done is so simple and inexpensive, I of course answer, “Yes, so much better.”
So, when my friends ask me if I am staying or if I am going, I tell them honestly that I do not know.
But I also tell them that Arauz getting elected President scares the shit out of me. I see a dark future for Ecuador if he comes to power.
And if they ask me that question on April 12th, my answer may be so much clearer, to them and to me.
I’m just sayin.’