Ecuador's Lasso takes office on vows to address economic crisis

QUITO, May 24 (Reuters) - Conservative Ecuadorean president Guillermo Lasso took office on Monday promising to revive an economy battered by the coronavirus pandemic and create jobs for a population weary from years of painful austerity measures.

The 65-year-old former banker in April beat out socialist economist Andres Arauz, who had promised to restore the generous social spending programs of former President Rafael Correa who was in power for a decade until 2017.

"Ecuador must also mean a promise of balance in common life, balance between the causes of its people, balance between economic growth and social justice," Lasso said in a speech. "Two cornerstones that will be the foundations of a prosperous and equitable country."

But Lasso has few clear paths to spurring growth given tight government finances and a congress led by the indigenous Pachakutik party, which has often opposed mining and oil industry projects that provide much of Ecuador's export revenue.

Outgoing president Lenin Moreno, who did not seek a second term, was unable to kick-start the economy using traditional free market measures such as cutting government spending and borrowing from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Lasso has said he will promote new private sector investment and will seek a review of the $6.5 billion IMF agreement to soften some of its terms.

He has also promised an ambitious COVID-19 vaccination plan for his first 100 days in office as a strategy to reactivate industrial and commercial activity that was crippled by quarantine measures for much of the last year.

On foreign policy, Lasso said his main priority would be to integrate Ecuador into the Pacific Alliance trade bloc including Chile, Peru, Colombia and Mexico, which are among the most trade-friendly countries in Latin America.

"Ecuador declares that its doors are open to world trade," Lasso said.

Reporting by Alexandra Valencia; Writing by Brian Ellsworth; Editing by Andrea Ricci

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