Feb. 1, 2015


Mauricio Rodas Espinel

Ecuador

Mauricio Rodas Espinel

Mayor, Quito

BIO

Mauricio Rodas Espinel was born in Quito in 1975. He holds a JD degree from Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador. He has two Master degrees in Government Administration and Political Science from University of Pennsylvania. After that he was a consultant for the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) in Santiago de Chile and advisor for several local and federal government ministries in Mexico. In May 2014 he was sworn in as Mayor of the Metropolitan District of Quito, after winning the general elections of February 2014, becoming the youngest mayor elected in the history of the city. In July 2014 he was appointed Provincial Councilor of Pichincha Province.

As you begin your term as the Mayor of Quito, what do you see as the biggest challenges facing the city?

One major challenge is improving our citizens' quality of life. This involves a number of things: improving mobility, transportation, and traffic, which is a major problem here in Quito. The other is competitiveness. We believe that Quito's potential competitiveness has not been taken advantage of in the past. This is because the previous administration believed the municipality had to do everything on its own, and regarded the private sector with skepticism. We believe that the private sector should generate wealth and employment, and that the municipality should be a partner in achieving these goals. In order for this to happen, we need to establish a clear and solid rule of law. This will create an environment that fosters entrepreneurship, local and foreign investment, and industrial areas with clear rules where new businesses can develop.

To what extent does a local government actually have the power to facilitate such economic developments?

Local governments have many tools at their disposal. Many industries have been leaving Quito for neighboring cities in Ecuador, which shows that the problem is on a city level. If you compare the investment coming into Quito with other cities in the country, you can see that we have been losing our position over the past few years. Investment is stagnating because local taxes in Quito are up to six times higher than in Guayaquil and Cuenca. Our response will be to reduce local taxes for the lower and middle classes. That will also create a much friendlier environment for entrepreneurship and investment. We are also eliminating bureaucracy and red tape, municipal licenses, and permits required to operate a business in the city. In the past, red tape prevented many new businesses from setting up in Quito, and these are steps we can take on a local level to stimulate growth and investment. We must establish a clear set of rules regarding land use. Establishing specific areas within the city for industrial development and applying the right kind of incentives for industry in such areas will foster competition and investment. We have also identified three main economic areas in which we see significant potential for Quito in the future.

The first is tourism, which Quito has an innate potential for developing. Quito was designated as UNESCO's first world-heritage city in 1978. We have also won the World Travel Awards for the best South American Touristic Destination two years in a row. Quito is also one of the 21 semi-finalists for the seven new wonders of the world process. All these factors have been useful in terms of promotion. Quito now receives 630,000 tourists per year, and we are hoping to double that number during my term. We are already establishing incentives for more investments in tourism such as hotel projects and programs that foster tourist activity.

The second area we have identified as strategic is our logistics export activity around the new airport. The airport is located in rural Quito. The location is quite isolated, so there is potential for development around the airport with a focus on logistical and export-related activity. Thirdly, we want to develop the economy of creativity and technological development. We are working on a new innovation district in Quito with professionals from MIT. These are the same people who developed the innovation districts for Medellín, Barcelona, Singapore, and other cities around the world. There is great potential in this arena because young professionals will take Quito into the future. We will advance not only by leveraging software and technological development, but also through innovative solutions to everyday urban problems. So, in these three economic areas, we have created specific tools to foster entrepreneurship and drive foreign and local investment.

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