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A model for economic progress

Article - November 30, 2015

During his 15 years in power, Mayor Jaime Nebot has overseen the unprecedented social transformation, urban regeneration, and economic development of Guayaquil, Ecuador’s most populated city and home to the country’s busiest port. His enduring popularity serves as a testament to the successful realization of his vision of the city as a model for urban renewal


Located in the Guayas province, Guayaquil’s position in the south-western section of Ecuador, by the Guayas River, which flows into the Pacific Ocean, means it is home to one of the busiest ports in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Tourism, business, and agriculture are also accountable for the city’s residents and companies. Nicknamed “the pearl of the Pacific,” Guayaquil is the largest and most populated city in Ecuador, eclipsing even Quito, the nation’s capital.

While the city’s vibe is thoroughly modern, Guayaquil has a long history. Founded in 1534, it spent almost 300 years under Spanish control, until the city’s army overthrew the Spanish forces and declared independence the October 9, 1820 before it went on to help other cities declare their independence as well. Guayaquil’s pride in its role continues today, and the city’s flag flies as much as the national flag.

“Guayaquil will never give up the right to the freedom to decide, the fairness to receive, or the creativity to progress,” proclaims the city’s mayor, Jaime Nebot, now in his 15th year as mayor. He also points out that the city’s independent attitude does not overrule its commitment to Ecuador; everything his administration does aligns with Ecuador’s “national framework”.

Nicolás Romero Sangster, General Manager of the Guayaquil Airport Authority (AAG), describes further the city’s role in later history, “Guayaquil gave birth to [former president of Ecuador] Eloy Alfaro’s liberal revolution and all progressive revolutions. It was from the city that we promoted civil rights, women’s equality and rights to vote, social justice and liberty.”

Economics: Guayaquil’s spirit of independence factors in its entrepreneurial climate.

There is no doubt that the city leads the nation in economic indicators, and private-public partnerships and protections for the private sector feature in its economic success. The local authority encourages investment and development, and decisions in business are made quickly.

Mayor Nebot reaffirms, “The state must guarantee access to markets.” All participants in a business venture are up-front. “Here, we respect everyone, and we also demand respect. We are responsible for our successes and our failures.”
The mayor warmly welcomes foreign investment, saying, “We respect and have always respected legal security; we offer clear rules and have a municipality administration that promotes and welcomes foreign investment. We are always there willing to help and support prosperous relationships that can lead to the best venture partnerships.”

The city also benefits from the mayor’s smart foreign negotiations. He has secured financing from the World Bank and the European Central Bank at favorable, competitive rates.

Guayaquil is home to Ecuador’s principal port, which this year was ranked by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean as the eighth busiest port in the Caribbean and Latin America. The port accounts for approximately 83% of the nation’s non-oil imports.

“It is evident that the long standing history of entrepreneurship is more alive than ever. Guayaquil is also positionsing itself strongly in the tourism sector, as a city to be seen, to be enjoyed and to be visited, with award-winning airports, hotels and hidden gastronomy to fall in love with. It also plays host to world-class international events hosted at the Conference Center ‘Expo Guayaquil’.,” adds Mr. Nebot.

Mayor of Incluvise Growth

Mr. Nebot is in his fourth consecutive term as Guayaquil’s mayor. His long-lasting popularity is testimony to his vision of the city as a model of urban development.

His crusade for betterment began before his mayoral career, when he was first governor of the Guayas province. After leaving the governorship, he was the province’s congressional representative until winning the mayor’s seat in 2000. Throughout his political career, he has worked to continually improve his city, province, and country.

“We respect and have always respected legal security; we offer clear rules and have a municipality administration that promotes and welcomes foreign investment. We are always there willing to help and support prosperous relationships that can lead to the best venture partnerships”

Jaime Nebot, Mayor of Guayaquil

And he has succeeded. Since beginning his first term, the city has seen significant improvements in its water and sewage services, a remarkable success that today has led to nearly 100% coverage within popular neighborhoods making the city a leader in Ecuador. This has been thanks to the work of EMAPAG, the regulator of drinking water and sewage management, and Interagua, a private service provider that has been taking care of the water supply since 2001.

Speaking about the development of the water system, Oscar García Poveda, CEO of Interagua, says, “I think we have taken a giant step, because 12 to 15 years ago, the city had neither this service, nor the coverage, nor the quality. Today, Guayaquil is the Ecuadorian city which effectively ensures drinking water for 100% of the municipality.”

The transport system is another important component of the city that has dramatically improved during Mayor Nebot’s tenure. Guayaquil received its first rapid-transit bus system in 2006, the Metrovía. It has since become one of the principal and cheapest means of transportation in the city.

Another feature of Mayor Nebot’s legacy vis-à-vis public transport was the rehabilitation of Terminal Terrestre in 2002, which had been in a state of deterioration for many years. The bus terminal is now the beating heart of Guayaquil’s public transport system and is used by 25 million people a year. Eduardo Salgado Manzano, General Manager of the Fundación Terminal Terrestre, says that the terminal has had an enormous social and economic impact on Guayaquil since the rehabilitation, which also included the construction of a mall and food court, making it a popular a vibrant shopping – as well as transport – hub for the city.

Alongside an improved bus network, the construction of bridges across the Greater Guayaquil area has also been vital to the development of a modern, world-class transport system. The next to be constructed will be 780-metre high bridge across the Daule River, connecting Guayaquil with the town of Samborondon. Costing $83 million, the new bridge will significantly alleviate traffic on the National Unity Bridge located further south and will have access for cars (four lanes), bicycles and pedestrians.

Already home to the José Joaquín de Olmedo international Airport, which is known for winning international awards in its category thanks to its friendly operations and its customer-centric focus, Guayaquil will also have a new airport approximately 30 kilometers south of the city to handle the steadily increasing air traffic, as the city attempts to lure more tourists, particularly from the United States.

The success of Guayaquil’s ground transportation system, the ‘Metrovia’ (a bus rapid transit system), has led to the development of an air travel initiative: the $125 million Aerovía project, a cable-car transport system running at 17 kilometers per hour and 30 meters above the ground, which will have two lines connecting Guayaquil with the neighboring towns of Samborondon and Duran.

Offering breathtaking views of the city and its environs, the Aerovía (which will take two years to complete) is bound to be a hit with tourists.

With well preserved historic buildings, such as the Metropolitan Cathedral, beautiful green spaces, and Malecon 2000, a 2.5-kilometer broad way along the Guayas River, the city has become the top destination for tourists in Ecuador. Mayor Nebot invites travellers to “visit Guayaquil, to observe its progress, experience its gastronomy, its hotels, its award winning airport”, as well as to visit the Guayaquil Convention Centre, a 25,000 meters-squared arena which hosts concerts, art exhibitions, business conferences and the annual International Gastronomy Fair.

Guayaquil is also on the fast track to becoming a smart city, as a result of the Digital City Project, which aims to provide the city with several digital services. The project entails connecting hospitals and clinics, providing e-government solutions and investing in computers, tablets and Internet access for public schools and universities. The plan also includes the setting up of 6,000 WiFi hotspots across the city.

Over the past 15 years, Guayaquil has become a much better place for tourists and residents alike. The hard work received recognition on a global scale when the United Nations designated the city as a model for urban renewal in 2003. Thanks to Mayor Nebot, Guayaquil truly is “the pearl of the Pacific”.