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Ecuador Earthquake: President Correa Taxes the Rich to Save the Poor

© REUTERS / Paul OchoaPeople stand next to the debris of a building after an earthquake struck off the Pacific coast, in Manta, Ecuador, April 16, 2016
People stand next to the debris of a building after an earthquake struck off the Pacific coast, in Manta, Ecuador, April 16, 2016 - Sputnik International
7.8 magnitude earthquake kills over 525 people as search and rescue efforts continue in the country’s worst natural disaster in over 60 years.

On Saturday night a magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck Ecuador, killing over 525 people and leaving the resourced-strapped country scrambling to conduct adequate search, rescue and relief efforts.

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"It’s the worst tragedy in 60 years," said Defense Minister Ricardo Patino. "We’re facing the most difficult phase right now, which is rescuing victims and recovering bodies."

Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa must now manage a tremendously difficult recovery and rebuilding effort, at a time when the OPEC nation’s oil revenues have greatly diminished. The government estimates that the damage from the earthquake exceeds $3 billion, and are reducing GDP expectations by 3 percentage points, in the wake of the incident.

To meet the resource shortfall created by the tragic earthquake and exacerbated by a flat oil market, the President Correa on Thursday announced a one-time tax on the rich to pay for relief and reconstruction efforts. Any individual with assets in excess of $1 million will be required to contribute 0.9% of their wealth, while lower earners must hand over a day’s salary for every $1000 of their monthly income, up to $5000.

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In addition to the one-time tax on the wealthy, President Correa has expressed a willingness to sell off state assets to ensure resources get to earthquake victims struggling to survive in destroyed communities.

Despite heroic rescue efforts and attempts by Ecuador’s government to rally the necessary funds to address the catastrophe, residents in rural sectors of the disaster zone say they have yet to receive food, water, or emergency medical aid. Ecuadorian officials quickly moved supplies into populated areas impacted by the earthquake, but damaged and impassable roads continue to limit aid convoys seeking to reach to remote areas.

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