CARACAS – Venezuela’s annual inflation rate ended 2014 at 68.5 percent, according to the Central Bank, which said consumer prices rose 5.3 percent in December, or close to the monthly high of 5.7 percent registered in April and May.
Last year’s inflation rate, announced Friday, eclipsed the 2013 rate of 56 percent.
Oil-rich but import-dependent Venezuela, whose supply of dollars has been curtailed due to the recent sharp drop in global crude prices, also has been experiencing severe shortages of consumer goods.
Venezuela, the world’s fifth-leading crude exporter, receives more than 90 percent of its hard currency revenues from oil sales.
The Central Bank had said at the close of last year that Venezuela’s gross domestic product contracted by 4.8 percent in the first quarter, by 4.9 percent in the second quarter and by 2.3 percent in the third quarter.
A few weeks ago, leftist President Nicolas Maduro said a series of changes would be made to the country’s highly regulated foreign-exchange system, which was instituted in 2003 following an opposition-led general strike that inflicted considerable damage on the economy.
This week, in a bid to shore up the country’s battered finances, Venezuela launched a new third-tier of its currency regime that is open to both individuals and companies and allows supply and demand to determine the exchange rate.
Two other tiers will remain and provide dollars at preferential rates of 6.3 bolivars (only available for imports of food, medicine and other necessities) and 12 bolivars to the greenback.
On Friday, the new free-floating rate, known as the Marginal Currency System, or Simadi, closed at 174.47 to the dollar, or more than 27 times the official rate of 6.3 bolivars to the dollar.
Venezuela Inflation INPC 13 February 2015 by Latin American Herald Tribune