TBY talks to Jaime Nebot, Mayor of the Municipality of Guayaquil, on 12 years as Mayor, the urban regeneration process, and attracting investment.
TBY What have been your main achievements after 12 years as Mayor of Guayaquil?
JAIME NEBOT The main achievement has been to serve the people of Guayaquil, and we must have achieved that after winning three elections with over 70% of the votes. We have done much for education and health, matters in which we don’t have the legal obligation to intervene. Other matters we have pursued include the sewer system, paving neighborhood roads, constructing roads and tunnels, building level crossings, and urban regeneration, which gained recognition from the UN and the Development Bank of Latin America (CAF) as a sustainable project. We have also promoted the construction of thousands of houses and are proud of Metrovia, a bus rapid transit system, as well as a world-class airport. We also have a clear conscience for facilitating the growth and development of the city through national and international private sector efforts under different categories, from joint ventures to concessions.
What is the urban regeneration process currently focusing on?
All of our programs have a permanent nature, otherwise we can’t guarantee sustainable development. Urban regeneration changes people’s lives, advances the economy, and drives employment. It also encourages tourism. Around 12 years ago the tourism sector was almost non-existent. People used to visit Guayaquil to study, visit friends, or do business, but we had no tourism pull, nationally or internationally. Nowadays, Guayaquil is the first city in Ecuador for tourist visits by national and international visitors.
What is Guayaquil’s budget for 2012 and the main focus for the year?
Our budget is around $600 million, and 85% will be spent on works and services. One ongoing project is Digital Guayaquil, which will provide part of the city with free wireless. The budget for this is $2 million per year. We administrate the city with very conservative norms, for everything regarding public debts and running costs. First of all, our indebtedness hasn’t gone over 5% of our annual budget in 12 years of administration, and has always been dedicated to public works. Secondly, for every $100 that comes to Guayaquil, $15 goes toward administrative costs, and $85 to works and services. This has been well reflected in our approval ratings, which are around 90% for this administration.
How can Ecuador increase its foreign investor pull?
There are a variety of national and international investments in Guayaquil, but being a part of Ecuador, FDI in Guayaquil depends on how the international community perceives the country. Investments respond to very clear parameters: legal safeguards, confidence, incentives, clear rules, and opportunities to make profits.
Has the political conjuncture in Guayaquil made the difference in terms of the business climate in the city?
The way to be successful in business is through sustainability. Obstacles have to be turned into stepping stones, and businessmen need to look at the long term, as good and bad administrations come and go. It is all about attitude. If we had started off with the idea that Guayaquil couldn’t change or needed to wait to be swept up in national development, we wouldn’t have achieved anything. However, we decided, in line with the idea of national unity, to take matters into our own hands, develop projects, and reach our goals.
What other advantages does the city of Guayaquil have to attract investment?
Guayaquil is a city with political and legal stability. Here the rules are clear, and there is respect for what has been agreed upon. There is an ideological consistency in procedures. We have an airport that operates every day of the year. We have great connectivity by air, sea, and land. Guayaquil is a logical multimodal hub from Asia, with ports such as Posorja, which sooner or later will be an intercontinental port for container transfer, with an ideal depth and location. Obviously, the city needs to fit into the national framework. For example, this isn’t an area to invest in mining or oil, but it is perfect for investments in industry, agribusiness, tourism, construction, and trade and maritime areas. This is a city that is continuously evolving.
How have the municipality and the private sector worked together?
Cooperation has occurred on the new airport, the expansion of the current airport, the ports, the Metrovia system, shopping malls, and urban regeneration. The private sector is an important partner for us. This is a part of our autonomy. The local community this way has its own development model. Other cities, such as Quito, Cuenca, and Machala cannot be administered in the same way, as every city is unique. Here, we respect everyone, and we also demand respect. We are responsible for our successes and failures. This is the philosophy that has been implemented in this city for a long time.
© The Business Year