The precarious situation of the majority of Venezuelans has worsened. This is a fact shown by the Living Conditions Survey carried out by three local prominent universities such as the Andrés Bello Catholic University (UCAB), Central University of Venezuela (UCV) and Simón Bolívar (USB), and released in February 2018. Income poverty reached 87% of the population. By combining structural and conjunctural poverty, it has been determined that recent poverty reached 56% and, due to inflation, shot up in 2017. Permanent or chronic poverty, which is very difficult to overcome, has affected 30% of the population.
All indicators of social inclusion that define the multiple factors in the calculation of poverty, such as the characteristics of housing, access to health services, education, protection and social security, water, energy, sewage system, lack of home appliances such as refrigerators or washing machines, employment, show a bleak picture. More than 68% of the population does without healthcare insurance. The less the material conditions of life are met and the lower the household income, the more severe the poverty affecting many sectors on a daily basis and that may worsen when these are geographically or territorially further away from urban centers.
The result is a worse quality of life, not only for the loss of purchasing power but for structural deficiencies in households, which becomes more acute outside of the big cities in rural or peripheral areas. For 89.4% of all households, income is insufficient to buy staple products. Extreme poverty increased to 61.2% in 2017 from 51.5% in 2014. The population exodus due to multiple deficiencies, coupled with rampant crime, has recorded nearly 3 million people from 2016 to 2017.
There is a significant loss of nutrients to the point that the basic diet has been reduced to rice and cassava for 78.8% of all households as a first option of consumption, without proteins that ensure an adequate intellectual development for children and balanced conditions of health for all Venezuelans. Vegetable consumption has also been reduced with the increase of vitamin and mineral deficiencies in 2017 from 2016. Chronic malnutrition has devastating effects for future generations as starvation has become a major cause of death not only in children but in adults as well.
There has been no social improvement and even less an inclusive social change. This scenario of calamities contrasts with the social change in Colombia, which has shown a 22% drop in poverty from 2002 to 2015 and a sustained 15% increase in the middle class.
Since 2013, this group has outnumbered the poverty group, which has stopped being the majority of the population since 2010. Colombia’s healthcare system and the so-called Law 100, by constitutional mandate since 1991, have meant a great social agreement, beyond ideological trends or political preferences, in order to achieve coverage of 100% of the population. The United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) recognizes today that Colombia has the highest rate of growth of social indicators in Latin America.
Collapse in Venezuela covers not only economic and social indicators, such as the humanitarian crisis caused by a drop in imports, food and medicines, as a result of a state monopoly. Or over-indebtedness. It also covers the drop-outs in schools and universities, the deterioration of higher education, the mentality of immediacy or short-termism, and moral anomie. Venezuela needs a national agreement beyond a new government to continue the reforms leading to the improvement of the model that has destroyed the economy and the nation’s institutions.