Ecuador appoints new Oil Minister

0Polluted Ecuadorean waters1 May 2013, News Wires – Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, OPEC, member, Ecuador, has appointed a new Oil Minister.

Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa will name a new oil minister and a new finance minister next week, a high-ranking government official told state-run news agency Andes on Tuesday.

According to a Reuters report, Correa’s legal secretary Alexis Mera said Oil Minister Wilson Pastor would be replaced by Pedro Merizalde, who heads the Pacifico refinery project.

Correa will name current deputy finance minister Fausto Herrera as the new finance minister, replacing Patricio Rivera, who will in turn be appointed minister for economic policy, Mera told Andes.

Correa was due to make the appointments on Tuesday but his busy schedule forced him to postpone the event until at least next week, Mera said.

Pastor, appointed as oil minister in April 2010, was in charge of negotiations to force oil companies to sign service contracts later that year.

Following the signing of these deals, Ecuador’s revenues from the oil sector boomed. The Andean country is Opec’s smallest member and produces about 500,000 barrels of crude per day, Reuters stated.

Correa, a member of an alliance of leftist Latin American presidents, won re-election in February with about 57% of the votes. He later said he planned a Cabinet reshuffle. Correa’s inauguration is scheduled for 24 May.

Correa has been in power since 2007 and has won broad support with heavy spending on welfare, health, education and infrastructure projects.

However, the socialist president has also scared away investors by using anti-capitalist rhetoric, defaulting on $3.2 billion of debt in 2008 and pushing through a new constitution that gave him more power.

Ecuador has not attracted investments in oil exploration since private companies were strong-armed into signing service contracts in 2010. As a result, output has been stuck at 500,000 bpd.

In late February, Correa said that even though Ecuador had struggled to obtain financing, its ambitious $12.5 billion Pacifico oil refinery – a joint venture between Venezuela’s state-run PDVSA and Petroecuador – would be up and running on schedule in 2016.

The country also hopes to attract about $1 billion in investments for 16 oil blocks in Amazon regions, despite indigenous groups opposing oil exploration on their lands.

Shortly after his sweeping re-election victory, Correa told Reuters that Ecuador could consider issuing debt for the first time since the default.

Ecuador is also weighing up launching an exchange offer for holdout creditors, which would improve investor confidence in the country, Reuters said.

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