Friday, July 27, 2007

Numbers! Numbers! Numbers!

Sorry I've been out of it for so long...the self-imposed coma from Argentina's joke of a Copa América final against Brazil wore off just in time for some red-headed iguana rustler to kidnap my companion animal.

But I'm back now, the iguana's sunning, and the Center for Economic and Policy Research has just published a new paper on the state of the Venezuelan economy after 8 years of the red scourge that is Chavismo.


--despite what Alejandro "former president of Peru who at one point had a SINGLE DIGIT approval rating" Toledo might think, Venezuela is not riding a soon-to-pop oil bubble on the road to extinction;

--spending money on your population is a good thing (again, contra Toledo's sage advice on government stability, longevity, and efficacy);

--fiscal crises have been triggered NOT by Chávez's fiscal irresponsibility but have rather been the result of events such as the 2002 bosses' strike which, by design, brought Venezuela to such an economic standstill that it was actually IMPORTING oil from places like Saudi Arabia in order to meet its standing delivery orders (surprise, surprise).

--despite global capitalist hand-wringing about Chávez's supposed penchant for nationalization and the liquidation of all things capitalist, the private sector continues to control a larger share of the national economy than the state.

(This last point has controversially been brought home by Hugo, who emphasized on Aló Presidente last Sunday that neither he nor the Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela is nor will be Marxist-Leninist. He went on to explain that among the key differences between himself, Marxist-Leninst ideology, and its adherents – at which point he specifically named Castro – perhaps the most important is the failure of the latter to update its focus on the industrial worker to the reality of today's economy, which thrives on immaterial labor activities such as information and communication technology.)

The press release, as well as link to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, follow:

New CEPR Paper Looks At Venezuela's Economy During the Chávez Years

For Immediate Release: July 26, 2007

Contact: Dan Beeton, 202-293-5380 x104

Washington, DC: A new paper from the Center for Economic and Policy Research
looks at the Venezuelan economy during the last eight years and finds that
it does not fit the mold of an "oil boom headed for a bust," as is commonly

"There's no obvious end in sight for Venezuela's current economic
expansion," said economist Mark Weisbrot, Co-Director of the Center for
Economic and Policy Research and lead author of the paper "The Venezuelan
Economy in the Chávez Years."

The paper notes that Venezuela's economy was wracked by political
instability for the first four years of President Hugo Chávez's tenure, but
has grown steadily and rapidly over the last four years, after political
stability returned to the country following the oil strike of December 2002
to February 2003.

Since the bottom of that downturn in the first quarter of 2003, Venezuela's
real GDP has grown by 76 percent.

Moreover, the private sector is still a larger share of the economy than it
was before President Chávez took office.

In real (inflation-adjusted) terms, social spending per person has increased
by 170 percent during the period 1998-2006. But this does not include the
state oil company PDVSA's social spending, which was 7.3 percent of GDP in
2006. With this included, social spending was at least 314 percent more in
2006 than in 1998 (in terms of real social spending per person). This has
brought about significant gains for the poor in health care, subsidized
food, and access to education, some of which are detailed in the paper.

The official poverty rate, which measures only cash income and does not
include such advances as increased access to health care and education, has
dropped by 31 percent from 1998 to the end of 2006 - from 43.9 percent of
households to 30.6 percent. Measured unemployment has dropped from 15
percent in June 1999 to 8.3 percent in June 2007.

The authors also look at fiscal, monetary, exchange rate and other
government policies, as well as investment and the sustainability of the
expansion. They note that the government faces significant challenges over
the intermediate run in controlling inflation and bringing Venezuela's
currency to a more competitive level. However, the country's declining
public debt (as a percentage of GDP), large current account surplus, and the
accumulation of reserves have given the government considerable insurance
against a decline in oil prices. This favorable macroeconomic situation has
also left the government with much flexibility in dealing with inflation and
the related imbalance in the exchange rate. The authors therefore conclude
that - contrary to popular belief -- there is no imminent threat to the
country's current economic expansion.

The Center for Economic and Policy Research is an independent, nonpartisan
think tank that was established to promote democratic debate on the most
important economic and social issues that affect people's lives. CEPR's
Advisory Board of Economists includes Nobel Laureate economists Robert Solow
and Joseph Stiglitz; Richard Freeman, Professor of Economics at Harvard
University; and Eileen Appelbaum, Professor and Director of the Center for
Women and Work at Rutgers University.

And the report:

And Stay tuned!

Coming soon:
-the amazing disappearing-reappearing 'censored beacon of democracy and big tits' RCTV, no doubt to include snarky insights into why exactly they STILL think they don't have to follow the rules everyone else does.
-stories of work in Misión Ribas (which will most likely be snarky, but will have way less boobies).
-a look at the upcoming proposed changes to the constitution

...I'm still trying to figure out a way to adequately mock Primero Justicia's (perhaps the second largest opposition party, founded by the US National Endowment for Democracy) recent announcement that they are a party of the 'extreme center.'

...oh wait, I think i just did:
Ladies and Gentlemen, please put your hands together for Julio Borges, president of Primero Justicia (I hope no one is mid-drink of coffee):

I mean, really, how can I be more cruel, hilarious or cruelly hilarious than dude’s unibrow?

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