QUITO – Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa said Saturday he will submit a bill to Congress that would facilitate the expropriation of oil fields from companies that refuse to switch from production-sharing contracts to new service-provider arrangements.
He made the announcement during his regular Saturday TV and radio address.
“My patience with this is up. The oil companies are playing around with us,” the leftist, U.S-trained economist said.
He added that “in the coming weeks there are going to be some very important steps taken,” adding that “we’re sending a bill to the National Assembly that would give me the power to expropriate oil fields in the event these oil companies don’t want to sign the new service contracts.”
In his weekly address, Correa acknowledged errors by his government that had given “the multinational companies more leeway in the negotiations.”
On Feb. 24, the Non-Renewable National Resources Ministry said that private oil companies operating in Ecuador will invest more than $417 million this year, or almost double last year’s outlay.
Reports from the National Hydrocarbons Directorate, which oversees oil and gas operations in the Andean nation, say that figure corresponds to the 2010 exploration and production budget of six private companies – including Spain’s Repsol YPF – that operate in the Amazon region.
Oil is Ecuador’s main export product and revenue from crude exports finances roughly 25 percent of Ecuador’s public spending.