Document Type

Working Paper

Publication Date



Ecuador is a small and misdeveloped country that has recently embarked on an important experiment in national development. The nature and outcome of this experiment have implications not only for the social science researcher, but more importantly for the Ecuadorean people themselves and for developing countries in the region and throughout the hemisphere. The administration elected in 1979 has pledged to carry out a program of far-reaching reform within a democratic framework that will harmonize economic development and social justice in a way designed to effect a major transformation of the basic structures and values of the nation. It is clear that the reforms proposed will clash with the country's entrenched heritage of three centuries of unequal social and economic growth and with a political tradition characterized by autocracy and authoritarianism. Many observers wonder whether sufficient resources of any kind can be mobilized during the four years of the current regime even to begin to overcome the inertia of imbalanced development, attributed by some to the forces of dependency and by others to structural rigidities inherent in the social relations of production. l On the other hand, it is true that the conditions in Ecuador today could not be more propitious to initiate a process of significant transformation: unprecedented revenues from petroleum provide the state with a promising resource base for reform, the government is led by a new generation of men who have a profound awareness of the country's past and of its present problems, the administration is staffed by a corps of able men and women freed from the sterile conflicts that once dominated the rhetoric (if not the reality) of national politics, and the economy has a potential for diversification that could provide a base for independent development. How the current regime capitalizes on these favorable circumstances, its success or failure in achieving the goals of development and justice, might provide clues to a clearer analysis of the causes of misdevelopment and to a clearer understanding of the solutions needed to resolve the development crises that plague countries throughout the Third World.


Latin American and Iberian Institute

Language (ISO)



Ecuador, Society, Democracy, Institutionalization, Economy