Not only Nicolás Maduro has inherited the presidential chair, but has he the heavy economic legacy from Hugo Chávez. With two devaluations of the bolivar currency this year and a third looming in the horizon, the battered economy of Venezuela is starting to put the president of the Republic against the wall.
It has all been as if hunger and an urge to eat had had become accomplices to create this situation. By forcing businesses to lower their prices, without a criterion of rationality and in a gesture of obscene demagogy, the Government recently gave the country’s commercial establishments a surprise attack that left their shelves completely empty. The aftermath? Chronic shortages that now affect both providers and consumers.
Some of them have nothing to sell; others simply don’t have anything to buy. Indeed, the worst of both worlds. Business owners had warned this earlier: The pace for the replenishment of inventories does not match with that of the shipping of products.
Replenishing the shelves takes time. José Khan, the Minister of Commerce, claimed with optimism dollars would be given to importers “immediately” and “no red tape involved” in order to guarantee the necessary imports. According to this senior government official, scarcity levels will go down in 2014.
“The scarcity index will drop; we have a lot of planning to do in 2014,” Khan was recently quoted as saying. Well, if that “a lot of planning to do” is the same as last year, the scarcity index may reach astronomical levels in 2014. And the reason for this is that more than 20% of high-consumption products disappeared in a “planned way” from businesses shelves in 2013 alone.
With Khan’s huge predictive power, 2014 may be a year during which the three daily meals of Venezuelans (albeit two is more accurate since there are more poor households nowadays) could be highly affected, even more than last year. We sincerely hope the minister is right about this, but it all seems to indicate he is not.
Today we unbelievably have bread shortages, among other staple products. And the icing on the cake: Car battery shortages despite the Government having taken control of the local manufacturing companies of this kind of product.
In a drive to overcome the situation, only a battery per person is sold at factories, while the used one must be left there to be eventually rebuilt and resold. So, there is no food for the human body and neither is for cars. Sad but true.
The economy has its own laws as much as its uses and morals. When either of these are ignored or played down, what is to come is a major economic catastrophe and high scarcity levels. It is actually happening as matter of fact. And this is because Venezuela has never had such an incompetent government in its entire history.
A head of state is not required to be an expert in economic matters. His/her ministers and advisors are there to help him/her with that, but he/she is indeed required to have an average knowledge on economic dynamics.
With basic financial skills, a president would not be easily made a fool of and might as well have a better understanding with his advisors so he/she can make smart decisions to steer the economy away from an eventual disaster. In the case of Maduro, it seems he does not have the slightest idea about anything. Without a doubt, Venezuela is going from bad to worse.