First I would like to express my profound gratitude to Yale University – its officers, professors, and students – for this invitation. As you may know, before entering politics, I was a university professor. Moreover, I had the opportunity to earn a master’s in economics and a Ph.D., also in economics, at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, during four of the happiest years of my life.
That is why returning to academia renews my spirit, particularly as the differences between academic life and political life are so great. Whereas in academia it is a sin not to tell the truth, in politics it is practically a sin to be truthful.
In academic life you find simplicity; veneration for the truth; and usually the best of human nature. It would not normally occur to anyone in academia to intentionally lie. In politics, although there are also many good people who seek to serve, unfortunately all too often you still encounter the worst of human nature.
So thank you, for offering me this opportunity to return to academia.
Overview of Ecuador
Allow me to tell you about a fascinating country, the most compact mega-diverse country in the world. If we consider both terrestrial and marine biodiversity, Ecuador has the largest number of species on the planet in a territory just over one hundred nine thousand (109,000) square miles (about the size of the State of Nevada), where one finds all climates and microclimates imaginable. In Ecuador we have “four worlds. ” In a single day a tourist can have breakfast along the beaches of the Pacific with fresh seafood, then have lunch at the foot of Cayambe, a majestic Andean mountain, snow-covered year-round, right on the equator, and finally have dinner deep in the Amazon jungle. The next day, after a flight lasting less than two hours, our tourist, amazed, can be in the Galápagos Islands, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.
Ecuador loves life. Our Constitution is the first in the world to grant rights to nature. Twenty percent of our territory is protected in forty-nine Reserves and National Parks, among them Yasuni Park, a jungle treasure and a world biosphere reserve, where in just one-third of a square mile you can find a greater variety of trees than in all of North America.
No doubt, given its diversity and geographic location, Ecuador is the eco-center of the world. In Ecuador, in seven days you can sample all of Latin America: its beaches, its mountains, its jungles, its islands, and, most important, its people.
The Argentinians, very proudly proclaim: “The Pope is Argentinian”; my dear friend Dilma Rousseff, the President of Brazil – Argentina’s eternal rival in soccer – says “Well, the Pope may be Argentinian, but God is Brazilian”…. In Ecuador we do not have any problem with that: certainly the Pope is Argentinian, God is probably Brazilian, but Paradise … is Ecuadorian! You are always welcome in Ecuador!
Development as a political problem
After years of studying development, I can assure you that development – at least in the Latin American context – is basically a political problem, a problem of who is in charge in a society, the elites or the vast majority, capital or human beings, society or the market.
They say that Christopher Columbus was the first economist; because he didn’t know where he was going, when he got there he didn’t know where he was, and everything was paid for by the government.
In any event, if he had been an economist or if an economist had accompanied him, he would have concluded that Latin America’s development would be more rapid than that of North America. While both regions have abundant natural resources, in the former there were already well-organized societies such as the Incas, Mayas, and Aztecs, and more advanced technologies.
This is one of the great enigmas of development. The reasons are many and complex, but no doubt one of the key reasons is the elite class who dominated and continue to this day to dominate Latin America.
A country’s institutions, policies, and programs depend on who holds power. This was already denounced centuries earlier by French proto-economist Frederic Bastiat: “When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men living together in society, they create for themselves in the course of time a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it.”
The greatest harm that has been done to Economics is to disassociate it from its original nature as Political Economy. We have been led to believe that everything is a technical issue, and, in not considering the power relationships within a society, we have been made subservient to the dominant powers. Paraphrasing the great economist John Kenneth Galbraith, the economist that does not acknowledge questions of power is completely useless.
The political economy during the period of the Citizen Revolution has made it possible to bring about a steady reduction in poverty and equality from December 2007 to December 2013. While poverty has fallen 11 percent, the Gini coefficient has fallen 12 percent. The growth of the Ecuadorian economy has clearly been “pro-poor.” The pace at which incomes have grown among the poorest percentiles has been faster than the rise in incomes for the wealthiest. That situation suggests a process of socioeconomic convergence in Ecuadorian society.
There is a steady reduction in economic polarization. During the period analyzed, the difference between the 10 percent richest and the 10 percent poorest fell from 35-fold to 25-fold (a gap that is still morally unjustified). One observes a process of territorial convergence, which is to say that the reduction in poverty is greater in those provinces that had the highest levels of poverty before the Citizen Revolution. We have included historically excluded sectors. One clear example is that as a result of the policy of eliminating economic barriers and having recovered quality public services, educational enrollment has steadily increased, with the greatest gains in the poorest quintiles.
The public policy we have put in place has made it possible to strengthen the middle class, and while we can observe a steady improvement in the standard of living for the whole population in terms of income, one of every four Ecuadorians has moved to a higher economic stratum; in other words, there is clear evidence of upward social mobility.
To give you an idea of where the country is heading, if the social trends continue, by 2015 we will achieve all the targets stipulated in the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. I must clarify that for us these goals represent the minimum acceptable levels, since our own programmatic agenda as defined in the National Plan for Good Living, is much more ambitious, reflecting what our country truly needs.
According to the 2012 United Nations Human Development Report, during the 2007-2012 period, which coincides with our administration, Ecuador is one of the three countries in the world that advanced the most in terms of human development, improving its ranking from “medium” human development to “high” human development.
This is the so-called Ecuadorian miracle, though in development there are no miracles. The striking changes that have taken place are basically the result of the change in power relations, accomplished by means of profoundly democratic processes. Today in Ecuador it is the Ecuadorian people who are in charge.
The problem of development is that it requires many things that are necessary, none of which in itself is sufficient. Power may be in the hands of the large majority, and one may be able to attain more equitable distribution, yet have only misery to distribute. Science and technology - as drivers of wealth - are fundamental for development.
That is probably the secret to the success of the United States, a country where 1 percent of the population controls 35.6 percent of the wealth, and 10 percent of the population controls 75 percent of the wealth. Such concentrated economic power normally destroys a society, but it has been a system that has made possible great technological advances, and with them productivity and income gains that have improved life for all.
While we have made substantial leaps forward in Ecuador in social and political terms, that change has not been accompanied by major changes and improvements in the productive sphere, and one of Ecuador greatest problems continues to be the low level of productivity in its economy. To resolve this disconnect between social policy and production we have adopted an aggressive national policy to promote the development of science, technology, and innovation in which the universities play a fundamental role.
Perhaps I could point out that the United States has not fallen further than it has in this world economic crisis thanks to the role played by its magnificent universities – such as Yale – in the country’s economy.
We are not falling into the trap of technological absolutism, in which all of society has to be organized in function of technological requirements. Albert Einstein is credited with having said: “I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots.”
But neither do we believe in primitivist infantilism, in which pre-modernity is thought to be tantamount to good living and misery is part of folklore. Not only that: These fundamentalisms, which verge on irresponsibility, play into the hands of the new and unjust international division of labor, as we will see in a few moments.
You must know that nowadays, every five years new knowledge doubles. This means that countries that do not generate knowledge are twice as ignorant, every five years, and above all twice as dependent on what others produce. Either we seek to reduce distances or we will be isolated and subordinated, as a developing country, when it comes to innovation and science.
Higher education, science, technology, and innovation
For this reason, higher Education has been a central focus of our Government’s policies, and one for which it has been lauded within Latin America. Many of our neighbors, have been taken aback by the bold wave of reforms we have carried over these last few years. Ecuador is now known as the country that established the free nature of public Higher Education, and did so in its Constitution; the country that closed down 14 universities because of their failing quality; and the country that, over a 7-year period, increased its investment in Higher Education from 1,1% to 2% of GDP, demonstrating a strong political will to make knowledge, the formation of human talent, and science and technology the pillars of the new Ecuador. The results have been, by all standards, astounding, with significant improvements in the quality of the Universities, and the democratization of access, thanks to the eradication of tuition fees and a meritocratic system of admissions.
In order to understand these remarkable changes, we have to go back to the Constituent Assembly of 2008, entrusted with the responsibility of drafting a new Constitution. When they came to discussing the state of our Higher Education System, the members of the Assembly had to admit that Ecuador’s university system did not compare favorably to many of its Latin American neighbors. This conclusion was even more worrisome in light of another conclusion: Latin American universities, notwithstanding a few noteworthy exceptions, do not compare favorably with universities in other parts of the world, including, evidently, the United States.
Undoubtedly the wave of deregulation during the neoliberal heyday of the 1990s and early 2000s was particularly detrimental to our higher education system. Universities sprang up at every street corner. In Ecuador, between 1992 and 2006, that is, in barely 14 years, we created 45 universities (of a total of 71 universities nationwide), many of which were what you might call in the United States degree-mills or ghost universitiesdegree mills, he United States !e worrisome in light of another conclusion:ience and technologyith more structural answers to th, what in Latin America we call garage universities, fundamentally for-profit businesses managed by people with little or no scruples, virtually selling degrees to gullible, and in some cases not-so-gullible, students.
As a direct consequence of this growing anarchy in Higher Education, the Constituent Assembly ordered an in-depth evaluation of all 71 universities. In 2009 a first report was issued by Ecuador’s accreditation agency, which categorized universities from categories A to E. The country was shocked to learn that 26 institutions were in the E category. Over a third of Ecuador’s universities were exposed in this evaluation as extremely poor quality institutions.
It took a new law of higher education, approved in our National Assembly in 2010, to give these 26 universities an ultimatum: show significant improvements or face closure at the term of a new evaluation process, to be carried out within 18 months of the passing of the new law. The second evaluation took place, and in April 2012, the thts the evaluation took place and ce closure after a new evaluation process to be carried within 8 months of the law being the tht14 institutions that did not deserve to be called universities were shut down.
To ensure the rights of the students who were enrolled in those institutions, the Ecuadorian State developed a complex Contingency Plan, which was without doubt the greatest academic intervention in the history of Ecuador, and the sole purpose of which was to put right one of the biggest scams and social lies that the country has experienced: over 40,000 students enrolled in these dismal universities were rescued by the State and reinserted in the remainder of Ecuador’s Universities.
Not only were 14 universities shut down, but we also closed 44 (out of a total of 86) university extensions, fundamentally satellite campuses that function at a distance from the university headquarters. These were created at a time when, for primarily political and electoral reasons, mainly public universities opened extensions all over the country to supposedly decentralize Higher Education. The result was disastrous. As a consequence of this other form of deregulation, poor rural areas were given tokenistic third-rate universities as political favors and handouts. The outcome was evidently that the vicious circle of discrimination was exacerbated, because the poor were given the worst institutions and services.
Aside from the relocation of over 40,000 students, we have also come up with more structural answers to the phenomenon of highly decentralized poor quality Higher Education. Having universities with a certain scale and a national scope is an important part of the solution, especially if it is accompanied by grants, scholarships, stipends, student residence, etc., so that previously excluded sectors can access Higher Education.
Another important solution concerns technical and technological education, something that overall, in the Americas, we haven’t always valued as much as we should. The Europeans on that front have proven that not all the student population needs to study in universities, but that an important proportion (up to 60% in the case of Germany) can study in more vocational and professionalizing establishments. In the case of Ecuador, a country with very ambitious aspirations regarding the diversification of its economy and the change of its production matrix, including a strong drive towards industrialization and increased productivity, it is vital to have a highly skilled and trained technical workforce.
This is why we are currently investing 308 million dollars to strengthen and often build from scratch dozens of technical institutes that are strategically located and articulated to the production sector. Let us not forget that the universities that closed down largely specialized in cheap programs, so as to maximize profits, mostly in the field of administration, business and commerce, undoubtedly important areas of study, but with low demand in the employment market and with an even lower impact on production and productive transformation. Technical institutes help make education relevant to the prerogatives of National Development.
Ultimately, many of the problems identified in Ecuador’s Higher Education system, including academic fraud, correspond to well-known phenomena recurrent in many countries throughout the Latin American region and the world. But unlike other countries facing similar challenges, Ecuador had the political will to tackle the issue, to bear the economic cost of the Contingency Plan, as well as face up to the potential political cost of conflict the closure could generate.
The closure of the universities sent a strong signal to the university system as a whole. The message was very clear: Ecuador needs quality Higher Education at the service of cultural, social and economic change.
As a result of this national cause (the improvement of our universities), some quality indicators have already improved. Between 2009 and 2013, the number of professors with doctoral degrees has almost doubled. There are many more full time teachers (especially in the context of certain private universities that had virtually none, and as a result had no academic or scientific community).
We have doubled publications in indexed journals. Ecuador also boasts the highest rate of growth in the Innovation Index in the region according to the World Economic Forum for 2013. And there has been lots of improvement in infrastructure, with better university libraries, laboratories, and facilities; amongst many other things.
Another strong incentive for improving quality was the design and implementation of a new formula for the distribution of state funds to public Universities. Before our government, universities received their budget incrementally (never less than the amount received in the previous year) and they received a set amount per student regardless of the cost of the program. This of course was an incentive to offer cheap programs of little relevance. Today the formula of allocation of state funds to universities considers the real cost of programs and the variable quality. This is has also proven effective for universities to maximize efforts towards quality.
New national rules for tenure also mean that teachers now receive a decent pay in public universities, indeed the most competitive academic salaries in the region. This, alongside other policies that stimulate the return of Ecuadorians that left the country because of the brain drain, has been successful at fostering the birth of an academic profession and career. In Ecuador nobody, and yet everybody, was a university professor. Everybody gave classes alongside their other professional activities, but very few were actually full-time academics.
The new salary and tenure system signified an 88.5% increase in the salaries of academics over a 5-year period. In addition, the Prometheus project, a system of state grants that allows to headhunt and hire international academics to work in Ecuadorian universities fully paid by the Ecuadorian state, has further helped resolve this problem.
Ultimately, the lasting solution for our Higher Education is to improve its human talent and to encourage the emergence of a new generation of academics fully devoted to the academic profession in our universities. This is one of the reasons why Ecuador currently has almost 8000 scholarship recipients, most of them enrolled on masters and doctoral programs in the world’s best universities. This represents the highest per GDP investment in grants in Latin America, and a huge commitment on behalf of my government. In the last seven years we have given out more grants and scholarships than during the whole history of Ecuador prior to this Government.
If our universities have been, with noteworthy exceptions, of poor quality, it does not follow that they have been of easy access to the people. Rather we inherited an essentially elitist and obsolete university system of poor quality, which functioned as a mechanism for the reproduction of the unequal structure of social classes and “distinction,” and further deepened the segmentation of Ecuadorian society.
In this regard, as a government, we have refused to accept the classic dilemma or trade-off between equity and quality: where we must supposedly choose between democratizing the system under the principle of equity, or favor merit and academic excellence under the principle of quality. The case of Ecuador’s Revolución Ciudadana has shown the world that it is indeed possible for both principles to be harmoniously combined and that this zero-sum game is essentially a fallacy. Ecuador has doubled the enrollment numbers from the poorest sectors of society and of the historically-excluded indigenous and African-Ecuadorian populations. According to the Economic Commission for Latin America (ECLAC), Ecuador has now become the country with the highest percentage of enrollment of its poorest quintile in the region.
The constitutional guarantee of free public higher education has done much for the democratization of access. And so have the grants and scholarships. The National System of Leveling and Admissions for higher education has also eliminated the long waiting lines, the bribes, and the use of personal networks to get into college. Our system of admissions, given the huge disparities that still exist in high school education, is based on an entrance exam that measures skills and abilities, and not just knowledge.
Finally we have created 4 new public – and therefore free – world-class universities for the development of key areas of the country. All four projects seek to combine quality, democratization, and relevance to development. The first is the National University of Education (UNAE), primarily dedicated to the training of teachers and specialists that will become part of the national education system. It is self-evident that they can be no long-term sustainable generation of human talent without excellent early childhood, primary and secondary education. It is on this premise that the 2008 Constitution establishes a mandatory 0.5% annual increase in the budget of education until it reaches 6% of GDP.
Currently, the Ministry of Education (which does not include Higher Education) manages the largest budget in the Ecuadorian government: 12% of total state budget. There is no time to go into the detail of our policies in general education, but there have been great advances in coverage, infrastructure and quality. Unfortunately, in Ecuador, as in many parts of the world, teaching has become the least prestigious and desirable of professions.
Students aspiring to be teachers obtain, on average, the lowest results in their university entry exams. It is time to change this reality, to encourage the most talented youths to become teachers, give prestige to the profession (including through academic means) to the noblest of all professions.
One of the policies that we have put in place to tackle this issue is to require of any student wanting to become a teacher to pass the university entrance exam with the same amount of points as a candidate for medicine. If the student is accepted he or she will receive the equivalent of a minimum wage during the period of study. These rigorous standards and important incentives, accompanied by the creation of the new university of education, seek to incorporate a new generation of highly motivated and qualified teachers into the system.
The second university we are creating is the University of Arts (UARTES) whose central mission is artistic research, creation, production, diffusion, and the formation of the country’s best talents in arts and culture. Culture and arts play a fundamental role in giving greater texture, identity, memory to our societies as well as greater depth to our democracies. And we shouldn´t underestimate the role cultural industries can play in changing our production matrix, as the United States, where cultural industries represent 12% of GDP, has demonstrated.
The third university we are creating is IKIAM, which means Rainforest in the indigenous Shuar language, a university in the Amazon dedicated to the generation of bio-knowledge. The campus itself lies in the middle of a 355 square mile Natural Reserve, and is a live laboratory for the study of biodiversity, which we believe will be the great resource of the 21st century. If we want to exert sovereignty over the Amazon we need to study our fauna, flora, water resources and geology. Ikiam is an answer to this challenge.
And finally, Yachay, which means “Learn!” in our ancestral Kichwa language and which we have described as the most important project in our country’s history, is a new university for experimental scientific research. Located in the a beautiful area of northern Ecuador, it is the cornerstone of a new city of knowledge and innovation, the very first planned technological city in the region. Yachay, which opened its gates to its first students last week, is dedicated to nanoscience, information technology, life sciences, renewable energy and petrochemicals.
These new universities seek to put an end to Ecuador’s subservient role as a producer of primary goods and importer of goods with high added value in the international system. Yachay perhaps best exemplifies the aspiration of a country that had given up on generating knowledge but now says: “we can and we dare produce science”.
None of this is of course possible without political will. Not the closure of 14 universities, not the granting of free education, not the massive public investment needed to create extremely ambitious universities, not the 8000 scholarships, certainly not the fact that Ecuador is today the country with the highest per GDP spending in Higher Education in our region. Ecuadorian spending in Higher Education, at 2% of GDP, is, by far, the highest in Latin America, which spends an average of 0.8% of GDP. Indeed it is higher than the average spent by OECD states, at 1.7% of GDP.
If we have dedicated so much energy, time, political capital and resources to Higher Education, science and technology, it is because we are convinced that the future will favor those who bank on knowledge as the cornerstone of their economies and societies. Today, Ecuadorian public investment is 15% of GDP, the highest in Latin America. This translates in great works infrastructure, new roads, hydroelectric plants, ports, airports, schools, hospitals, connectivity, etc. However, an earthquake can destroy infrastructure and leave a country in ruins, but it cannot erase the human talent of its people. And it is that same human talent, that science and technology, which enables countries to overcome any earthquake and puts them in an advantageous situation to tackle the great historical challenges of humanity.
The unjust international division of labor
Having provided you with a quick overview of the importance we are attributing to human talent, science, knowledge and innovation in our administration, allow me to go back to the main idea I want to discuss this afternoon. The results obtained are no miracle; they are a consequence of our being able to change the correlation of forces in these areas in my country, on putting first the common good of the large majorities, and not the privileges of certain corporate groups.
Nonetheless, the political dispute is larger in scope. “He who has knowledge, has power,” noted the French philosopher Michel Foucault. As I mentioned earlier, the new cognitive capitalism created a neo dependency. Every day that Microsoft decides to launch a new version of Microsoft Office, the global South has no option other than to purchase its licenses or “copy without authorization.” The visible hand of the market schedules the obsolescence of its products and follows through with precision.
There will be no possible emancipation if we do not make a break with this new form of dependency. We seek to move from the economy of finite resources to the economy of infinite resources, which we have called the “social economy of knowledge and innovation.” This economy also seeks to recover the notion of knowledge as a public good.
Knowledge is generally a public good, that is, technically speaking, no one can be excluded from it, since we can all access that knowledge, and without any rivalry when it comes to consuming it, since my use of knowledge does not keep anyone else from using it. As George Bernard Shaw said: “If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange these apples, then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea, and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas.”
Trying to privatize a public good by means of institutional measures such as patents is harmful to society as a whole, because if there is no rivalry in consumption, then as the number of people who enjoy this good (already created) increases, the greater the social well-being. This is one of the famous “market failures.” One dramatic example of the privatization of knowledge and forced exclusion is the high cost of certain medicines, since they are patented.
The apparently pragmatic principle of the privatization of knowledge, in addition to its social inefficiency, usually subjugates human beings to capital.
The great challenge of humankind in the twenty-first century is to achieve the supremacy of human beings over capital; we need societies dominating markets, not societies dominated by markets. The market is a great servant, but a terrible master. We believe in society with markets, but not societies dominated by the market, in which lives, people, and society itself are just one more commodity, all in function of that entelechy called the market.
There are more efficient ways of incentivizing the production of knowledge. One alternative is greater participation by academia and by the public sector itself. Another alternative is for the State to compensate the creation of knowledge for profit, and in this way make it available to all humankind. The main problem with all these alternatives is that they tend to undermine ideological fundamentalisms and the rule of capital. But, let’s remember that the United States, for example, had a quasi-open system for knowledge management during its early periods of industrialization – they only recognized national patents and did not allow foreign companies to register patents.
While it is mainly the rich countries that produce science and technology, countries such as Ecuador produce environmental public goods; but in our case, for all the pure air generated by the Amazon jungle – the lungs of the planet without which human life would deteriorate critically – we the countries of the Amazon basin do not receive any compensation, while at the same time the biggest global polluters pay absolutely nothing to consume our environmental goods.
But there’s more. Nor do they want to recognize the information that exists in our biodiversity, which is often unique. One example is Epibatidine, a painkiller derived from our multicolor frog (Epipedobates tricolor), whose usefulness only became known thanks to the collective and ancestral knowledge of our peoples, and which was extracted by foreign scientists and exploited by international pharmaceutical companies, without any benefits at all for our country.
And it is sometimes thought that generating environmental goods has no cost. The reality is that it can be very costly, not in terms of direct costs, but in what economists call the “opportunity cost.” Today many demand – without any moral standing, I might add – that the oil of the Amazon be left underground. But that implies an immense cost in revenues not received, in every day that goes by with a child with no school, a community without drinking water, or people dying of preventable diseases, all of which are true pathologies of misery.
This is the new international division of labor. If before it was us producing raw materials and the hegemonic countries producing industrial goods with high value-added, now the new and unjust international division of labor is them generating knowledge that they privatize, and us environmental goods that continue to be global public goods.
And it is also a political problem, of power relations internationally. To illustrate this, imagine for a moment if the situation were the opposite, and the generators of environmental public goods were the rich countries, and our countries were the polluters. Certainly by now they would have invaded us to make us pay “fair compensation”…. And all in the name of civilization, rights, etc.
My dear young people, students, friends:
The world order is not only unjust, it is immoral. Everything is geared to serving the interests of the most powerful, and double-standards abound: the global public goods produced by poor countries must be free, such as environmental goods; whereas the public goods produced by the hegemonic countries must be paid for, with the imposition of institutional barriers such as patents.
Only by compensating environmental goods would there be an unprecedented redistribution of income internationally, but this is once again a problem of power relations, this time on an international scale.
The big polluters don’t sign Kyoto, but in our countries you go to prison if you don’t pay to use a patented product. What is most sad is that oftentimes the poor countries themselves participate enthusiastically in such absurd mechanisms, and we don’t even understand the instruments used to keep us in the role assigned to us by this new division of labor. For example, as our dear friend Álvaro García Linera – the vice president of Bolivia and one of the greatest Latin American thinkers of our time, has said: several NGOs are not really NON governmental organizations, but organizations of other governments in our territory, and the vehicle for introducing a type of colonial environmentalism that relegates to the indigenous peoples the role of caretakers of the Amazon forest.
By investing in human talent, science, technology, and promoting innovation, we will overcome the economy based on extracting natural resources in an intelligent, responsible and sovereign fashion, without the absurdity of sitting on top of a goldmine and begging, rather than harnessing our natural resources to meet our people’s needs.
We are perfectly aware of our limitations as a small country, and that we cannot change an unjust world order, but nor will we passively accept the role that has been assigned to us in the new international division of labor.
No one should have any doubt about it: A large part of our second and definitive independence is making ourselves generators of knowledge and breaking down that immoral international division of labor to which they want to subjugate us.
I firmly believe in the transformative power of science and technology. Indeed, it is in this power of science and technology that I place a large part of my hope in the future of the planet, the sustainability of our way of life, and the possibility of attaining Good Living for all humankind. For a long time I have considered that any effort to summarize processes as complex as the advance of human societies into simplistic principles or laws – whether you call it dialectical materialism or rational self-interest – is doomed to fail. And I am also convinced that scientific and technological gains can generate great well-being and be greater drivers of social change than any class struggle or pursuit of individual wealth.
The development of agriculture converted humanity from a nomadic to a sedentary way of life; the industrial revolution transformed humanity from rural life to urban life for the majority; and much more recently the spectacular advance of information technologies transformed industrial societies to knowledge societies. I believe that the political, economic, and social systems that will prevail in the future will be those that allow for the greatest scientific and technological advances, but also – and this is very important – their better use for the common good.
Ecuador has decided to base its development on the only source of wealth that cannot be depleted, which is human talent and human knowledge, to attain development that is sustainable but also sovereign.
* Discurso dado en la Universidad de Yale, durante su gira por instituciones académicas de Estados Unidos en abril de 2014