Photo Credit: European Commission DG ECHO
If you could make Ecuador remarkable, how would you start? Bill Bushnell tackles this question for us today in a column discussing one of the most important questions for aspiring expats to consider: “What is your inspiration for moving abroad?”
10 Ways To Make Ecuador Remarkable
My wife Leita Hulmes and I are real adventurers. Some people would call us gypsies, who collectively have moved over 70 times in our combined 145 years on the planet. We have always contended, that to be an expat, one needs to have a few bolts that aren’t completely screwed down. We fit the bill and purchased our first Cuenca condo on our third day in the country.
“Giving back” has always been one of our main inspirations for living abroad. To that end, we propose the creation of a National Expat Volunteer Committee by the Ecuadorian government, specifically to attract foreign investment capital and tourist revenue. The time has come for the government to take organized advantage of the experience, brain power and financial muscle that exists in Ecuador’s rapidly expanding expat community.
The following list of 10 Ways To Make Ecuador Remarkable can be pursued without the outlay of significant capital. On the contrary, these and other ideas could be developed jointly by the government and the expat community, and could enrich the nation economically and culturally.
- Develop a simple, rapid-implementation Resident Visa Program using Belize’s and other existing successful programs as models. Such a program will contribute greatly in making Ecuador the first-choice retirement destination for thousands of “baby boomers” worldwide actively seeking a retirement home in the sun. And, yes, there are also thousands of younger people with high-tech skills leaving their native lands to new homes in today’s global society.
- Develop new, and strengthen existing, environmental-protection programs for the nation’s land, air, water, and animal habitats.
- Develop, in conjunction with these environmental preservation programs, an aggressive international marketing program focused on eco tourism and sunshine real estate for progressive thinkers worldwide.
- Develop a secondary marketing program featuring Ecuador’s agriculture, arts, crafts, and renewable resources.
- Develop and pursue environmentally sound development of the nation’s natural resources.
- Develop a volunteer teachers program.
- Develop national poverty eradication programs focused on public-private partnerships to provide world-class education through high school for everyone and to improve and expand low-cost housing so that every Ecuadorian has a decent place to live with clean running water, electricity, natural gas and indoor plumbing.
- Develop chemical-free agriculture programs.
- Develop healthy free or low-cost nutrition programs that guarantee no Ecuadorian goes to bed hungry.
- Finally, develop a series of programs to promote progressive democracy with an emphasis on freedom of speech, a free press, the protection of private property rights, fair trade, and free universal health insurance along with other progressive programs that are of importance to the development of the population now and in the future.
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A healthy, progressive, expanding nation is a free nation. Idealistic, yes! Impossible, no!
We are bold enough and smart enough to have migrated here. We are bold enough and smart enough to help make Ecuador an even better place to live for all of us. Do you agree? Let me know and make a comment!
Bill Bushnell currently lives in Cuenca, Ecuador. He is an award-winning professional theatre, film and television director/producer/writer; a disaster relief consultant for the US government; an international investor; and the co-creator with Leita Hulmes of the South American Fund for Education (SAFE) which focuses on the education and development of poor bright kids. In his spare time he travels the world. His life’s beliefs are simple: “Change and indeterminacy are my security blanket.” “Truth is a pathless land.” “World peace begins with me.” “Live life one day at a time because the only living time is NOW!”
Great ideas, Bill! I would only add:
1. That Ecuador should encourage and subsidize ultra-high speed internet links to the rest of the world and high speed, subsidized linkages within the country. This enables high-tech businesses to relocate here for all the obvious reasons (low cost, good infrastructure, sunshine, natural, clean beauty) and encourages young entrepreneurs to relocate – even if they are one or two person operations.
2. Subsidized and encourage high tech partnerships with (young) Ecuadorians to join in those budding businesses. This would tie into your “Teacher Program” point 6. Might want to invite Spanish speaking professors to teach in local universities.
Hope the expat community will join in encouraging the govt. doing this to everyone’s benefit.
Great ideas Bill. The one idea I would add is to start recycling programs for paper/paperboard, plastics, glass and metal in communities besides just the largest cities such as Quito, Cuenca and Guayaquil.
Hmm… I would already describe Ecuador as remarkable. I don’t think it needs our (Gringos) guidance to enhance its progress. As for the points you suggested, many are already progressing rapidly. Poverty has declined far more rapidly here over the last 15 years or so than it has in the US. There are people who go to bed hungry, at least from time to time, but the main need they have is the opportunity to work and earn enough to provide for their necessities, and nearly all of them are willing to work. Education is also improving.
I would encourage Gringos who are living here in Ecuador to participate in the society, volunteer for causes that are near and dear to their hearts, and to do what they can to improve life and conditions here in Ecuador. However, I do NOT think that Ecuador suffers from a shortage of Gringos and should be actively working to attract more of them, beyond the provisions that are already in place. Visas are not especially hard to get, as most of us who have moved here can attest.
Is Ecuador going to make some mistakes through this process? Of course, but I doubt that getting more input from foreigners would reduce their mistakes overall. Our track record is not exactly unblemished, and our understanding of the local culture and conditions is limited. As I read through your suggestions it seemed to me that you want to remake Ecuador to your ideal, rather than allowing the Ecuadorians to develop it toward their ideal. Integrate, participate, volunteer, and try to be a good example, but DON’T think that they are going to welcome your efforts to “improve” them or their institutions.
I don’t understand how some of these ideas can be accomplished “without the outlay of significant capital”, like items #7 and #9? Since I worked for a federal conservation agency in the states before retiring, I can tell you voluntary resource conservation does not come cheap as mentioned in items #2 and #5. In the USA, government programs pay landowners incentives to protect their soil, water and other natural resources. The alternative is regulation which they say is even more expensive and also conflicts with protection of private property rights (item #10). I happened upon an exhibit in Cuenca one day sponsored by ETAPA. ETAPA is the Ecuadorian agency that administers Cuenca’s drinking water. The water originates in the mountain paramos and this exhibit described natural resource management practices to keep the water clean. They were the exact practices that I use to promote in the states. ETAPA already knows what’s needed to keep the water clean, but how do they pay to get it done? Here is another example of how the solution to most of these ideas is driven by economics. The guy who grows bananas on our land on the coast is certified organic. As mentioned in item #8, there are already these types of programs here in Ecuador. He gets a better price for his chemical free bananas because there are enough people willing to pay that price. However, his production suffers from not using chemicals and all the while his bottom line is maximum profit.
I appreaciate all your great ideas.. I ask only one question? HAVE YOU ASKED ANY LOCAL ECUADORIANS OR INDIGENOUS FOLKS WHAT THEY THINK OF ANY OF THESE IDEAS??
We have lived in Ecuador for nearly five years. We consider ourselves as their guests. The thoughts we hear from the locals include: Why are the Gingos trying to change everything? Why do Gringos say things like, “the locals just don’t understand our needs.” “Why can’t we get things we need/want in Ecuador?” ETC.
Why do Americans/Canadians/?? just assume they need to change things to their wants and needs? Why does BETTER always mean change?
Most of our friends are local Ecuadorian and Indegenous folks who love their country, love their families, and are our friends because we respect them and their country.
Sorry, but reading “10 ways to make ecuador remarkable” is all about what Gringos want Ecuador to be!!!!
Excellent presentation of what look like clean, implementable ideas with positive general impacts. As someone looking to move to Cuenca and who has already visited, I have concerns that I address by gaining more information. Two issues are around the issues of money security and residency. This kind of intelligent formulation of ideas is comforting. Maybe we will see you soon.
The arrogance displayed in the title of this article as well as the disrespect shown to its leaders point to a profound lack of knowledge of the country as it is. Ecuador is already outstanding. These are but simple suggestions all of which have been in currency for many years and already voiced my many people. Nothing voiced is either original or unique. And the suggestion that one should take any example from that sad country Belize beggars belief.
These are ideas that are worth considering, but one thing that seems to be missing from this is that you assume that these are all good for Ecuador. How does it affect their culture and values? I see many well-meaning people who move here, for various reasons and then want to change it because it doesn’t meet their standards or views of what should be (I’m not saying that you are one of these, you seem to have a lot of good experience). However, it is critical to find things that can help improve people’s lives and yet maintain culture. While I’m a technologist, I see way too many financial and technical enterprises that change culture and peoples’ values in ways that, in my opinion, are very detrimental to the overall good of society and causes further inequality and poverty.
One thing that would help is for the expat community as a whole to work harder to integrate with the Ecuadorean community where they live and spend more time understanding their values in order to come up with collaborative ideas that help all sectors of Ecuadorean society.
just another gringo thinking he can change EC into the US
How arrogant can one be? Ecuador seems just fine to me. Go fix the fear mongering, anger, inequality, education systems, etc. in the US.
Bill, it sounds like you need your own country. Perhaps the United Nations can consider one for you. Excuse me, but I have not noticed that Ecuadorians are particularly receptive to outsider influence or direct recommendations. To make Ecuador remarkable, in my humble opinion, it needs to start with a vast improvement in the educational system which will then produce independent thinkers who can be real entrepreneurs and diversify the economy. But, I have no delusions that the government is going to call me in as a consultant, no matter how many college degrees and experiences I bring with me. Ecuador’s government has his own smart dudes.
Ecuador government is doing all of these suggestions already, for immigration, education, health care, business assistance, etc. It appears this gentleman has not take the time to learn about what is happening in this country, sometimes you read these kind of opinion just to learn how misinform people are. No GMO’s, this is in the Ecuadorian constitution, when you come to live in Ecuador and start consuming vegetables and the produce bought at your local markets you will start to lose pounds it will be just a matter of time before you notice it. All of this will result in better health. Another point Ecuador has over 10,000 students abroad getting educated all paid by the Ecuadorian government to come back to Ecuador to teach or to give back to this country as part of their agreement with the government. You all have seen the health care system is not bad it needs improvements but it works and cost you very little. It appears this ideas could be implemented back in the USA good luck with that, specially with immigration policies it took me 6 years to get my resident visa, GMO is in everything you eat every vegetable you cook all the produce is contaminated, everything has no seeds, definitely you don’t want to eat none of that. Anything to become known just like an unpopular teenager that will do almost anything to become popular, write crap so that people think that this is a good thing. You want to help I tell you what you can do: apply in any of the many local organisations catholic or what not that will welcome if you come to lend a hand either to cook, to clean, repair, paint, etc. Believe me you will be remember for a long time and will be very popular for years to come.
Responding to Lino: Our last name is Lino too! We’re planning to move to Cuenca in a couple of years when we retire, so we read everything we can about your beautiful country. We agree with your sentiments and plan to do our best to be as courteous, generous, and neighborly in our new home, as we are here in the Southern USA. Maybe we’ll meet some day.
These are all wonderful ideas… for the US. The US would certainly benefit from an improved visa and immigration system, better environmental protection, international trade agreements, low-cost nutrition program, improved educational system and progressive democracy. If we could figure out how to implement such programs at home, then maybe we could offer advise to other countries.