The jaguar is the tiger of the South American continent. Living in the Amazon rainforest, it symbolises agility, cunning and surprise. Ecuador is now being described as Latin America's jaguar. That's because not only have we broken with the orthodoxies of the Washington consensus but we are developing innovative economic alternatives of our own, born in the southern hemisphere.
Ecuador's transformation began in 2007, after the electoral victory of President Rafael Correa's so-called citizen's revolution. After six years in office, the revolution won a new democratic majority in February, with 57% of the vote in the presidential election and two-thirds of the seats in the parliament.
By rejecting the neoliberal recipes of privatisation, structural adjustment and curtailed demand, we have grown by 4.3% over the last five years despite the global slowdown. Central to this growth, and to the reduction of unemployment to the lowest rate in the region, has been public investment, which at 14% in 2011 is the highest in Latin America.
This is a key part of moving our economy away from reliance on commodity exports and mineral extraction, to one based on knowledge. We have also reformed and re-regulated the banking system, expanded the role of co-operatives and credit unions, and renegotiated lopsided agreements with multinational companies.
Our alternative model for society is based on the concept of "good living" – "buen vivir" in Spanish, or "sumak kausay" as it is in Quechua, our indigenous Andean language. Rooted in the ancient societies of the Andes, this is not a return to the past but looks to the future, rejecting narrow conceptions of development exclusively based on economic growth. And it rejects the false dichotomy between state and market in favour of a more complex interrelation of society with state, market and nature.
During the first term of the citizen's revolution, incomes were redistributed and poverty rapidly reduced. According to the UN, Ecuador cut inequality, as measured by the Gini coefficient, by more than any other Latin American country between 2007 and 2011 – a significant achievement in a region with the greatest concentration of social inequality in the world.
To do this, we have prioritised our population's rights over our commitments to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, which forced Ecuador to repay its debt on unjust terms, meaning neglecting health, education, social infrastructure and public investment. In 2006 Ecuador's external debt service accounted for 24% of the state budget. Now it is only 4%, freeing up resources to transform lives.
In line with our values of sustainable development, Ecuador is the first country in the world whose constitution recognises the rights of nature. We have launched an internationally backed plan to stop the exploitation of oil in a large Amazon area, with the aim of reducing carbon emissions and providing resources to expand renewable energy.
We are working to deepen regional integration to boost development, aiming for a collective basis to meet economic and environmental challenges. We are convinced that "free trade agreements" would, at present, damage our country and be bad business for it.
Supported by the vast majority of its people, a historical process of building the "great Latin American nation" is under way. Already it offers lessons for the rest of the world: in how to increase social equality by putting the human being above capital; in innovative financial models to overcome the threat of crises; and in new conceptions of good living, based on social and environmental sustainability. Ecuador is at the heart of this transformation, offering some of the skills of the jaguar.
Dr Fander Falconi is Ecuador's national secretary of planning and development and an executive member of the Movimiento Alianza party.