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Finally, insurers can say they have put the covid 19 pandemic behind them. As of October 2022, total premiums reached $1.66B. First post-pandemic year with a higher level of premiums than in 2019. In y-o-y terms, the expansion reached 19.6%, the highest in the last decade. Sucre's exit from the insurance market shook the board. The rest of the insurance companies have sought to fill the gap left by the state-owned company, the lead has changed in some insurance branches and there has been greater specialization. In the discussion by line of business, we highlight the insurers that have best capitalized on this opportunity. Telephone applications, automatic monitoring devices and portable technology are part of the follow-up tools for insurtech, helping people to obtain insurance in a matter of minutes. Insurtech is growing at 25% y-o-y in the region and is a phenomenon that is accompanied by a latent internationalization of the insurance industry. This insurtech phenomenon is not yet significant in Ecuador but will eventually become so.
The government had graciously accepted the Indigenous demands for restructuring debts. But later demands spiraled and currently stands ultimatum to an immediate $10K wrote-off for all debt with government-owned banks plus Biess or face new countryside disturbances. Surprisingly, this time the government stood firm on its current plan of the write-off of loans of $3k or under. The jury is still out on whether this stance is part of a more general shift in the part of the government to recover authority. Sales data available to September paint an optimistic picture, but October job data brings a reduction in adequate jobs. Liquidity growth is slowing down, there is a pressure for interest rates to rise. In the current scenario, rate ceilings are too low, and lending to business becomes unattractive. The trend is for more consumer and microfinance lending.
Ecuador expects to sign a trade agreement with China before the end of the year. Relations with the U.S. are getting closer, although the door is closed to a trade agreement. In both cases, there is a political angle to the closer economic ties. The government is refraining to publicly complain of the presence of the Chinese fishing fleet or denounce the oil sales and construction contracts. While it is meeting with top Washington officials regarding its status as new non-permanent member of the U.N. Security Council. The trade agreement with China has gained in importance as China has become Ecuador’s largest trade partner, oil aside. With Mexico, a trade agreement would be concluded this week, provided that Mexico allows at least token shrimp and banana sales. The one-year deadline for ports to have scanners for drug controls has passed, and the scanners are not yet in place. The time was too short for the authorities to decide specifications and for the scanners to be ordered and delivered. No new deadline has been announced.
This is the first bill of the budget elaborated in full by the Lasso administration, and there is no reduction in bureaucratic spending. The four-Year program that accompanies the bill of the budget foresees that the central government will grow at the same pace as the economy. The reduction of the budget deficit continues, although a very subdued rate. The IMF program ends this year, but Ecuador may again recur to the IMF, as the door to receive funds from a new program RST, with which to complete its financing needs. Yet, financing needs may be higher than budgeted. Revenues brought in by both VAT and oil seem overestimated. The ¨monetization¨ of assets is also questionable, as there is no such process in place, and the offers for Banco del Pacífico were lower than the bank’s equity and thus unacceptable.
The 90 days of dialogues between the government and indigenous organizations have concluded. The 218 agreements are just the starting point, now comes the implementation of the agreements. The uncertainty will continue for several months. The changes agreed in the Energy and Natural Resources Roundtable will define the country's oil and mining future. It is in doubt whether it is constitutional for the government to transfer powers, which are exclusive to it, to the binding technical roundtables formed by a group of citizens who will make decisions that affect the entire population. It is likely that some agreements will not pass this constitutional control. The new oil and mining environment will force the government to change its strategy. In oil, it will have to focus on boosting investment in current production areas, leaving aside the expansion of the productive frontier in the southeast. The solution will be to speed up the concession renewal processes and contract migration requests. In mining, the priority should be to unblock the requirements for the 9 advanced mining projects that could attract investments of $17.5B.
Country risk has soared again, after Leonidas Iza declared himself unsatisfied with the concessions granted by the government. Bondholders are beginning to lose hope that Guillermo Lasso will deliver the structural reforms that would allow Ecuador to face the external debt burden in 2026. Government economic policy is now concentrated in doing away with the last remnants of social distancing and stimulating business through budgetary spending. Data reveal an increase in sales and imports. Exporters have to deal with the consequences of a soaring dollar. Inflation remains at 4%, both as bad weather keeps staples scarce and thus prices high, and as services are rapidly returning at their pre-lockdown levels.