Ecuador replaces finance minister amid economic woes

Quito (AFP) –


Ecuador's President Lenin Moreno on Monday replaced the country's finance minister for the second time in as many months, amid economic woes that have prompted major cuts to the state apparatus.

The president, who on May 24 will have completed his first of four years in office, named business leader Richard Martinez as economy and finance minister, the ministry of communications said.

Martinez, an economist who since 2015 has led the Ecuadorean Business Committee, will replace Maria Elsa Viteri, who assumed the position early March.

"My goal and that of my team is to guarantee the sustainability of public finances and promote economic growth to generate jobs," Martinez said on Twitter.

The gradual reduction of Ecuador's state apparatus involves the elimination of 12 government departments, state enterprises, and 1,000 state jobs by 2021.

Moreno last month also announced tariff hikes in a bid to reduce Ecuador's fiscal deficit from a projected 5.64 percent of GDP this year to 2.47 percent in 2021.

Moreno blames his former ally and ex-president Rafael Correa for the country's excessive debt. Last February, the country's public debt -- which increased by 150 percent during Correa's 10 years in office -- stood at over $35 billion, according to the central bank.