WALTER SPURRIER

Ecuador 2020 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

For decades, Grupo Spurrier has been providing key data and insights to international companies interested in Ecuador. With mining activity picking up pace again, the company is set to play a bigger role in the country's economic development.

Walter Spurrier
BIOGRAPHY

Walter Spurrier is the President of Grupo Spurrier and an editorialist in two important Ecuadorian newspapers: Diario El Universo and Diario El Comercio. Spurrier is also the director of the political economic publication Análisis Semanal and its English version, Weekly Analysis. In addition, he is an advisor to the Chamber of Industries of Guayaquil. He also carries out advisory work for various institutions and companies. He has a master's degree in political science from the University of California, Los Angeles.

How would you describe the origin of Grupo Spurrier and its shift from producing oil-related information to a multi-sectoral offering?

When we began operations in 1971, our clients were international oil companies that were expanding into Ecuador. The majority of these companies did not have much information about Ecuador, so we started publishing a weekly report in English. It was not a news service as such, but an analysis of current events relevant to the business community. Afterward, local businesses started to demand our services, and in 1975, we started publishing our report in Spanish as well. Back then, Ecuador was undergoing a momentous transformation, and both multinational and local businesses were eager to understand the changes it brought. In 1975, for the first time, Ecuador started participating in global financial markets, and since then we have published our weekly reports in both English and Spanish. Moreover, we have expanded into consultancy services as a think tank; we produce reports tailored to the needs of individual businesses. We started catering to the oil industry, but early on we expanded into other industries, such as finance and foreign trade. We have been covering the mining sector since the 1970s and have gone over the government's failed attempts to open up the mining sector through the issuance of a new specialized law. The government's recent efforts have been successful; therefore, we are covering the sector more thoroughly now.

What factors will determine the future of mining in Ecuador?

Ecuador is drawing the attention of international mining companies because of two key factors. First, despite the fact the government of Gustavo Noboa drafted and passed an investor-friendly mining law at the start of the 21st century, in 2008 the government halted all mining projects. This situation lasted until 2015, when the government of Rafael Correa reversed the anti-mining policy as a result of declining oil revenues. Ecuador has immense untapped mining potential, and a number of recent gold and copper discoveries have aroused interest from international miners. Second, Ecuador is a small and densely populated country, which can be advantageous for mining activities, which ordinarily require large infrastructure projects. The biggest challenge is ensuring a stable political and social environment. There is no doubt Ecuador will enter a buoyant mining era sooner rather than later. All the political parties are in favor of the mining sector, and any successor administration will be aware of the contribution of an expanding mining sector to the national economy.

What will joining the Pacific Alliance mean for the Ecuadorian economy?

Membership in the Pacific Alliance may require Ecuador to open its market to Mexican manufacturing, which will not bode well for import-substitution industries. Joining the Pacific Alliance will also mean Ecuador has to open its economy to international trade.

What will be the impact of Ecuador leaving OPEC?

I was a delegate at the OPEC meeting in 1992 when Ecuador first left the organization. The decision to leave OPEC was an honest one; Ecuador accepted quotas as a temporary solution, however, as they become a fixture, Ecuador could not heed a quota that hindered its plan to develop reserves and increase output. Ecuador cannot delay discovery and development of oil deposits. Electric vehicles are becoming a reality, and, as a result, demand for oil for transportation is set to stagnate or fall, which means investment in oil exploration will become less attractive.

What does 2020 hold for Ecuador?

2020 will be challenging for the local economy. The recently passed tax bill falls short of generating the funds required to meet the deficit-reduction goals of the economic program, and there has not been much progress in reducing current budgetary expenditures. Ecuador' access to international financial markets will remain limited. The best bet is that Ecuador will experience zero growth in 2020. However, sectors that are not dependent on the local market, such as mining, will not be affected. Investment in mining will be one of the high points of 2020.