Biophysical structure of the Ecuadorian economy, foreign trade, and policy implications
At the core of this paper lays the notion that a systematic analysis of material flow accounts enables us to discuss the sustainability of an economic model. Ecuador is going through a socio-ecological transition from an agrarian towards an industrial regime, based on the use of nonrenewable sources of materials and energy. Direct material flow indicators are used in this article to analyze the ecological dimension of the economy of Ecuador during 1970-2007. This approach enables the concept of societal metabolism to become operative. The paper compares societal metabolic profiles showing that per capita use of materials is still at about one-fifth of the average in the high income countries of the world. Physical flows of trade indicate that there is an ecologically unequal exchange. Whereas a positive trade balance is desirable from an economic policy, its counterpart in physical units has been a persistent net outflow of material resources, the extraction of which causes environmental impacts and social conflicts.
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