GREENER GRASS

Ecuador 2019 | DIPLOMACY | VIP INTERVIEW

Guayaquil has thrived under the mayorship of Jaime Nebot Saadi since 2000. From new transport infrastructure and tourism facilities to green initiatives and other quality-of-life improvements, it has been a colorful and prosperous 19 years.

What do you consider to be your main legacy in Guayaquil as you prepare to leave office?

In the 19 years of my administration, Guayaquil has made great progress in improving the quality of life of its inhabitants. The city has become an international benchmark because of its strict regulations for public administration. Amongst these rules, we have committed to investing USD85 of every USD100 that we receive in public works services and only 15% in our own labor and administrative expenses. Secondly, we borrow conservatively, long term, with convenient grace periods and at very low interest rates to invest solely in public works and services, and never to finance or refinance unproductive spending. The best partners of a public administration are local and international private companies that receive legal security and incentives and can work through PPPs to expand the investment radius and service level. This allows us to have a prudent and effective administration and enough funds to invest in improving the quality of life of our citizens. If it can solve an economic problem, it will solve social and political problems, as well. Lastly, we always aim for innovation and creativity in education and business.

How do you plan to attract more tourists and business travelers to Guayaquil?

The two main engines of economic growth and employment generation are construction and tourism. Around 20 years ago, Guayaquil had no domestic or international tourism, while today it is the most visited city in Ecuador, both for domestic and foreign tourists. We have made a strong commitment to tourism, in combination with the private sector, through urban development projects and building attractive city elements like boardwalks and a commitment to gastronomy, music, theater, and urban art. The city has a new airport operating 365 days a year that was recognized as the best in the world in its category, while we offer free wireless internet access at 6,000 connection points around the city. While attracting investors and business visitors is key, everyone enjoys coming to a location where they can relax. The city has well-equipped convention centers that have attracted international exhibitions and fairs. Business and leisure tourism are very important for the urban development of Guayaquil.

In August, a new investment law aimed at improving productivity, attracting investment, creating jobs, and achieving fiscal stability was approved. What are your expectations?

The new investment law includes a provision on international arbitration, which is important as an investor needs to know that any legal issues can be resolved by international, trained, and impartial third parties. Meanwhile, both investment contracts and PPPs are exempted from income tax, tax on capital outflows, and other interesting incentives, which makes it a law that provides investment guarantees.

Can you tell us more about the project to connect Durán with Guayaquil with Aerovía, and your vision on further infrastructure development in the city?

During my tenure, the new airport, convention center, several tunnels and overpasses, motorways and highways, bridges, and traffic control were developed. We are currently developing the Aerovía project, which will transport 40,000 people daily between Durán and Guayaquil. The project is developed with the environment in mind, as well as with the hopes that it will raise people's quality of lives by saving them time—a journey that takes an hour can be reduced to just 15 minutes. The project will be connected to the Metrovía, the city's rapid bus transit system. We work with companies with great expertise, like the French Poma, which is highly regarded in suspended air transport.