Political guru Michael Rowan on Restarting Development in Venezuela
By Michael Rowan
I’ve had two swings at the bat in key presidential message campaigns in Venezuela.
In the 1993 presidential campaign, Claudio Fermin’s message was to provide all Venezuelans with shares in PDVSA that they could use to generate family wealth. Claudio lost by a few points to Rafael Caldera. You may remember Caldera. He’s the guy who made Hugo Chavez possible.
In the 2006 presidential campaign, Manuel Rosales’ message was to provide all Venezuelans with an oil-backed credit card that they could use to invest in education, training, a business or equipment – the tools of wealth creation. Manny lost by a few points to Hugo Chavez who, you may remember, reported a landslide win instead of the truth.
Two strikes gone and there’s one swing remaining. So, here’s a swing for Juan Guaido. This is what he has to do to rebuild Venezuela. Seeing Guaido doing this, Maduro may quit.
Rejuvenate Venezuela’s International Monetary Fund program to reduce Venezuela’s inflation by about two million percent or so in one year.
Reopen oil, gas and mineral development to global investors by transparent auction as PDVSA did in 1996.
Renegotiate honest PDVSA oil deals with China and Russia that are pure business and no politics or corruption. Give PDVSA no advantage over other oil firms – make it earn contracts like the others. This is the way Norway treats its state oil enterprise and it works.
Create the Venezuela Permanent Fund - VPF - which is owned by the people, not the government; which owns 25% of the reserves of Venezuela; and which has only one goal: to return the maximum annual dividend to its shareholders – the population – from careful development of its resources.
Four new development funds of the VPF will compete to attract investment and loans backed by oil, a vigorous World Bank development program, a new U.N. Development Program, foreign aid from free democracies, and massive private investment from global free markets. The 4 funds are:
The Agricultural and Clean Energy Production Fund will open up these two sectors to global investment and make Venezuela a food and energy exporter in 5 years.
The Sustainable Solar Community Development Fund will build small sustainable communities with modern houses that are owned and operated by Venezuelans who invest only their labor in construction and operation of many new enterprises generated by the profitable development.
The Enterprise Development and Investment Fund will capitalize 100,000 businesses and private enterprises that present a convincing business plan to its public board. See “Shark Tank” on U.S. TV for the idea. Among other opportunities, Venezuela has underused tourism resources that can create a million jobs in the country.
The Education, Training and Employment Fund will reform education in Venezuela so it concentrates on knowledge not ideology; will train and retrain workers to enter competitive industries in Venezuela; and will create an internet-based employment facility for job placement and mobility up the income ladder.
Historic time-out: Education is a big deal. Venezuela has been oil-dependent and government-dependent for many generations and needs a massive dose of reality that is successful. Venezuela has suffered a huge dose of negative reality that is a disaster. It’s time to wake up and start over.
It’s also time to republish a million copies of Gerver Torres’ book Un Suena Para Venezuela. That’s the whole problem and solution right there. Forget Don Quixote’s tilting at windmills: go build a clean energy wind farm.
Juan Guaido needs to get to work in the Assembly. He needs to do what he can do to prepare his country to govern itself. Democracy is not inherited, it’s learned.
First, pass the legislation that enables all of the above.
Second, forget the negative street protests, just run positive conferences supporting the reconstruction of Venezuela. Use your official support from 50 nations, the multilateral organizations, the global investors and financial markets to get ready for the change. Just do it.
Third, get ready to solve the economic crisis first, which is a lot worse than you might think. Venezuela has been looted like a leveled Macro store after a tornado. But Venezuela still has resources, people, and possibilities. Start over.
Fourth, don’t think politics, think economics. Get the economy working again and then organize a Constituent Assembly, a new constitution, and conduct transparent elections for president and the assembly. Demolish polarization with an economic success at the ground level before you start thinking about a new constitution and competitive elections.
Venezuela is traumatized, polarized, neurotic and paranoid. Create economic security first, political choices second. Be the first in Venezuelan history to do it right.
Last, in schools it’s a good idea to teach all students about the ultimate consequences in society from two organizational equations. M + D – A = C. And C + B - S = D.
Monopoly plus Discretion minus Accountability equals Corruption. Checks plus Balances minus Secrecy equals Development. Venezuela’s only known corruption. Isn’t it time to get to know development?
Michael Rowan is an author and political consultant who has advised presidential candidates throughout Latin America, including Governor Manuel Rosales in Venezuela, President Jaime Paz Zamora of Bolivia and President Oscar Arias of Costa Rica. In the U.S., he has advised winning candidates in 26 states. He has been an award winning columnist for El Universal, The Daily Journal -- predecessor to LAHT -- and the Latin American Herald Tribune since the 1990s. He is the author, with Douglas Schoen, of The Threat Closer to Home - Hugo Chavez and the War Against America.