January 16, 2013 / 7:16 PM / 6 years ago

Ecuador picks young economist as new central bank boss

* Predecessor quit amid scandal over qualifications

* New bank chief is Netherlands-educated technocrat

By Alexandra Valencia

QUITO, Jan 16 (Reuters) - Ecuador’s government named a young economist as the new central bank president on Wednesday after the previous incumbent resigned in December admitting he had faked a university degree.

The new boss, Diego Martinez, is a 34-year-old who studied in the Netherlands and had worked on economic research projects at Ecuador’s National Planning and Development Secretariat.

His predecessor Pedro Delgado, a cousin of President Rafael Correa, caused a scandal by confessing that more than two decades ago he had used a fake undergraduate degree in economics when he applied to join an MBA course at a business school.

Delgado, who had led the central bank since November 2011, is being sought by Ecuador’s police for holding public office without the right academic papers. His lawyer and the Ecuadorean government say Delgado is currently in the United States.

The authorities in Quito have asked their counterparts in Washington to cancel Delgado’s U.S. visa, which could force the former governor to seek asylum in a third country.

Correa is up for re-election in February. The leftist leader wants four more years in office so he can continue to expand state control over the Andean nation’s economy.

One of the main challenges facing Martinez at the central bank is economic growth that has slowed from a peak of 9.1 percent in the third quarter of last year. In this year’s third quarter, it was 4.7 percent.

But the economy is in good shape on the whole, which is one of the factors widely expected to propel Correa to re-election next month. High oil prices have helped OPEC’s smallest member boost revenues and increase state spending on infrastructure and social projects, underpinning Correa’s popularity with the poor. (Writing by Daniel Wallis; Editing by Nick Zieminski)

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