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Foreign investment in Ecuador and Chile: contrasting situations

by | Mar 12, 2023

The presidents of Ecuador and Chile, Guillermo Lasso and Gabriel Boric, face contrasting economic conditions.

Differing states of affairs

In the final phase of the first round’s Chilean electoral process and during the second round, most of the Chilean media affirmed that a victory registered by socialist Gabriel Boric would dramatically reduce foreign direct economic investment in the country. In addition, many believed that foreign capital would flee the country due to fear of the advent of a leftist government in the country.

In Ecuador, the opposite happened. Throughout the campaign of candidate Guillermo Lasso, the media spread the message that his victory would open sources of foreign capital and investment in Ecuador and that foreign direct investment (FDI) in the country would grow at a noteworthy pace. As a consequence of these assumptions, it was supposed that the unemployment rate in Ecuador would decrease significantly and that the economy would grow briskly.

However, economic data has demonstrated a different outcome. Foreign direct investment did not flee from Chile when Boric was elected, nor did FDI flow generously to Ecuador towards the government of Guillermo Lasso. On the contrary, recent Central Bank of Chile reports show that foreign investment has grown steadily throughout the past year. On the other hand, the Lasso government and local media, such as El Mercurio, have been forced to acknowledge that foreign direct investment in Ecuador has decreased significantly in recent times.

Foreign investment in Ecuador

In a recent edition, El Mercurio of Ecuador newspaper noted, “Foreign investment has fallen to the lowest level in the last twelve years.” This is because there has been a noticeable drop in investment in the mining and transportation sectors. According to the Central Bank of Ecuador, foreign direct investment (FDI) reached 51.3 million dollars in the third quarter of 2022, compared to the same period of the previous year. This figure represents a year-over-year contraction of 67 percent. Furthermore, it is the lowest level recorded since the fourth quarter of 2010, when FDI had a negative balance of 30.9 million dollars.

Prominent analyst Jaime Carrera commented that the Ecuadorian economy would have difficulty taking off for the foreseeable future. This statement coincides with the forecasts made by the International Monetary Fund, IMF, which states that “the Ecuadorian economy will be one of the least growing in Latin America this year.”

Keep in mind that the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) considers that, for Latin America to create new jobs and appreciably reduce poverty consistently, these countries must grow at least 5 percent annually for the next 20 years. This point agrees with an assessment made by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Ecuadorian analyst Carrera.

According to the Central Bank, foreign investment in Ecuador fell in five of nine critical economic activities in the country. Within these, the mining sector is the one that registered the most significant contraction; financing fell by 39.2 million dollars in the third quarter of 2022.

Foreign investment in Ecuador in the manufacturing, transportation, communications, and construction sectors also declined. On the other hand, foreign direct investment grew in finance and insurance, agriculture, commerce, and the gas and water services sector in 2022.

Foreign investment in Chile

Contrary to what many had predicted by traditional Chilean media, a collapse in the pace of Foreign Direct Investment in Chile has thus far yet to occur due to Gabriel Boric’s ascension to the Chilean presidency.  

The Central Bank of Chile, through a recently published bulletin, reported that the FDI received by the country between January and December of last year (2022) reached 17.1 billion dollars. This represents an increase of 12 percent compared to the year 2021, which means the best FDI performance in the last 15 years.

It also represents 36 percent more than the average of the last five years and 23 percent higher than the average between 2003 and 2022. However, it is essential to note that the reinvestment of profits reached a total of 6.1 billion dollars, and “instruments of debt accumulated an amount of 2.9 billion dollars, an amount lower than the record for the month of October 2022, ”according to the Central Bank.

The Minister of Economy, Nicolás Grau, noted the statistics and asserted, “The figures published by the Central Bank show that the Chilean economy is resilient.”

For information about the investment climate for foreign direct investment in major Latin American economies, contact LATAM FDI.

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