Public policy during a crisis: 3 Lessons learned from Ecuador’s earthquake

Guest blog written by Sandra Naranjo Bautista

Last October, I was a guest lecturer at Harvard’s Executive Education ProgramBudgeting Through Crisis. I talked about my experience as a minister during Ecuador’s 2016 earthquake with Salimah Samji, Director of the Building State Capability Program. Our conversation brought up memories that motivated me to write this blog. You can also listen to the podcast.

I’ll share 3 lessons from my experience dealing with a crisis. I also prepared a cheat sheet with additional information and examples that complement this blog. You can download it here.

Ecuador’s 2016 earthquake 

In April 2016, Ecuador was struck by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake, the strongest earthquake in nearly a century. The epicenter was between the coastal provinces of Manabí and Esmeraldas, around 200 Km away from the capital, Quito. At the time I was Minister of Planning and Development. That night, as the reports started to arrive, I could literally feel the weight of the world on my shoulders. The next morning, the scale of damages became clearer and the severity of the situation started to sink in. Homes, businesses, schools, hospitals, and major infrastructure had been destroyed. More than 600 lives were lost, and damages and losses amounted to US$ 3 billion (0.7% GDP). 

Lesson 1: Have your priorities clear

Emergencies are unexpected and their effect can surpass government’s installed capacity to respond. There can be confusion about what to prioritize and how to find the required resources. Breaking the process into manageable steps can help to avoid becoming overwhelmed. 

Continue reading Public policy during a crisis: 3 Lessons learned from Ecuador’s earthquake