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Ecuador’s president announces economic measure after massive earthquake

Rescuers remove a corpse from the rubble in Manta, Ecuador on April 20, 2016.  The death toll from Ecuador's earthquake was set to rise sharply after authorities warned that 1,700 people were still missing and anger gripped families of victims trapped in the rubble. A 6.1-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Ecuador Wednesday, sowing new panic four days after a more powerful quake killed more than 525 people, with hundreds still missing. / AFP PHOTO / Juan Cevallos

Rescuers remove a corpse from the rubble in Manta, Ecuador on April 20, 2016.<br />The death toll from Ecuador’s earthquake was set to rise sharply after authorities warned that 1,700 people were still missing and anger gripped families of victims trapped in the rubble. A 6.1-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Ecuador Wednesday, sowing new panic four days after a more powerful quake killed more than 525 people, with hundreds still missing. / AFP PHOTO / Juan Cevallos

Ecuador’s president has announced drastic economic measures, including an increase in some taxes and mandatory wage contributions, to deal with the aftermath of the devastating earthquake that killed more than 500 people and injured over 5,000.

Rafael Correa, estimating that rebuilding could cost as much as $3 billion, announced the measures in an address to the nation late Wednesday.

Saturday’s 7.8-magnitude quake was the worst to hit the South American country in decades, causing hundreds of buildings to collapse and damaging roads and other infrastructure in tourist areas.

The official death toll currently stands at 525, with 5,733 injured and 163 still missing.

Correa said the country’s value added tax would increase from 12 percent to 14 percent for a year.

He also announced mandatory wage contributions — people earning $1,000 a month will have to pay the equivalent of a day’s salary for a month, those earning $2,000, one day’s worth for two months, up to those earning more than $5,000 who are being asked to contribute one day’s salary for five months.

Anyone whose assets exceed $1 million will have to pay a one-time contribution of 0.9 percent of their wealth, Correa added.

He also said unspecified state assets would be sold.

The earthquake’s huge economic costs come as a further blow to Ecuador, which has already taken a big hit from the drop in global crude prices.

The country’s exports have suffered in part because neighboring Colombia and Peru both devalued their currencies. That made their products cheaper for buyers in other countries, causing money to flow out of Ecuador and imports to roll back in.

The government had forecast the economy would expand by four percent last year but instead it grew by only 0.1 percent.



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