COCHASQUI, Ecuador (Reuters) - Ecuador’s new leftist president, Lenin Moreno, said on Thursday he had reached out to the World Bank - an organization scorned by his predecessor - in a bid for financing that could help him fund ambitious social programs.
Former President Rafael Correa ordered the expulsion of the World Bank’s representative in the country in 2007 because of conditions attached to a $100 million loan.
Moreno, a former vice president under Correa, has promised to govern in a more conciliatory style than his predecessor and improve relations with business.
“We’ve started to reach out to the World Bank, it’s an excellent source of financing,” said Moreno, who was sworn in on Wednesday after winning a close election on promises of maintaining Correa’s popular social programs.
“We know the conditions of years ago are completely different (now.) These credits are more accessible and more affordable and without a doubt we’re going to reach an agreement with them,” Moreno added after a symbolic swearing-in by an indigenous community about an hour outside the capital, Quito.
Moreno, who has also said he would seek to renegotiate foreign debt to improve terms, did not provide details on the World Bank talks. The World Bank did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Moreno has vowed to provide free education, health and housing for lower-income families, and subsidies to eradicate extreme poverty.
But steep public debt and a dollarized economy hurt by lower oil prices are prompting the need for external financing. Ecuador’s opposition accused the government of running up excessive debt and mismanaging a decade-long oil boom.
Ecuador’s ruling Country Alliance party counters it has pulled millions out of poverty in the country dependent on exports of oil, flowers and shrimp.
“We will remain austere with our spending, but never, under any circumstance, will we stop serving the Ecuadorean people as we’ve promised in our programs,” said Moreno, draped in a traditional red poncho.
Reporting by Alexandra Valencia; Writing by Alexandra Ulmer; Editing by Peter Cooney