President Rafael Correa of Ecuador, on a working visit to Japan with senior cabinet ministers, began the 17th U Thant Distinguished Lecture at UNU Headquarters on Tuesday with a sweeping broadside against neoliberalism and the so-called Washington Consensus.
“Neoliberalism is not a good policy. We were not able to achieve economic development,” the president said. “Latin America never arrived at this ‘consensus’ and was not represented: the Washington Consensus was formulated by the global elite. Income disparity and economic hardship grew.
We are now rising to take up the challenge.”
President Correa said that Ecuador is trying to become a middle-class country, and outlined some of the steps being taken to realise this goal, specifically reform of the taxation system and the labour environment.
During his lecture the president returned repeatedly, and in practical terms, to the notion of the redistribution of wealth. “Compared to Europe our income disparity is huge,” he said. “We need to have a structure in place to achieve social justice. The wealthier should pay more, for example for health care, than the poor.
“Another way to redistribute wealth is democracy. Democratise corporate management and natural resources.” He gave an example of the Puna district where people living around the lake are denied access to its resources because of corporate monopolisation.
But democracy, he said, “doesn’t mean you have to grasp power.”
Speaking on globalisation and development, the president called for popular inclusion. “If globalisation occurs without governance, without the voice of the people, what will it bring? People will simply become consumers. We see labour being exploited in the name of competitiveness. You can’t solve the financial crisis by just creating liquidity: there must be a social change also.
“The concept of wealth will change. If China develops like Japan the world will be destroyed, so development cannot be pursued as it was in the past. That concept may have been wrong: development was not defined correctly.
“The Andean people developed in harmony with nature, not by ‘having more,’” he said. “That was ‘development’ in ancient times.”
Video of President Correa’s full lecture and the wide-ranging question and answer session following it can be viewed on UNU’s video portal.
Note: reporting is based on interpreted speech.