The “workerist” government of Nicolás Maduro is going through three simultaneous labor conflicts at present. One of them is with the workers of Dianca, a shipyard in Puerto Cabello (Carabobo state), whose administration (the Venezuelan Navy) owes them a lot of money; the second of them is with those at Sutis, steelmaker Sidor’s trade union, which is claiming the fulfillment of a series of agreements with the Government, an issue it is turning its blind eye to, several weeks ago and, lastly, the medical staff at the Military Hospital in Caracas, who are demanding the payment of some bonuses agreed with the Government regarding which the Government-employer has been also turning its blind eye to for five years now.
This is only an image of the level of social conflict the Republic of Venezuela is pregnant with.
The same situation is on the inside. After years of a permanent agitation state caused by late President Hugo Chávez meant to disguise the inefficiency of his administration, by replacing the normal decisions of a good administration for chauvinistic rhetoric, Maduro, his first heir (others very close to Chávez keep wondering why they weren’t chosen), has suddenly stumbled upon an unadjusted and disastrous economy as a result of 14 years of improvisation and outlandish trial and errors with their social consequences, all translated into a steep drop in the quality of lives of Venezuelans.
This is no easy thing for Maduro. Inflation will stand at 40% by year-end, perhaps with a rate even higher than that, because it already hit 38.7% over the past nine months of 2013. The real economy is taking a steep plunge after growing 5.6% in 2012 and posting a paltry 0.7% in 2013. This is bad news because it represents a bad omen for the population, above all the poorest, since they will buy less and pay more for everything.
Next year doesn’t look any better, despite the bullishness of Jorge Giordani, the country’s planning minister (it’s his duty to say things like that, most certainly). He “praised” his forecast of an inflation rate between 26% and 28% that, even so, is still the highest in the continent and the entire planet.
For his part, Nelson Merentes, the country’s finance minister, has admitted in realistic and restrained tone that inflation has gotten out of hand. Let’s see if the Government catches it soon enough, because that phenomenon has become repetitive, accumulative and has lethal effects. Merentes has forecast a growth between 4% and 6%.
That’s no big deal, but the fact of improving that figure of 0.7% this year will be something hard to achieve. Also hard to achieve by a squandering government will be lowering the inflation rate to 26-28% from 40%. Let’s just keep in mind that the Government missed all growth forecasts for 2013.
For 2013, the Government forecast an economic growth of 5%, but the outcome during the first half of this year was simply disheartening: 1.6%. At that pace it is impossible to fulfill the goal for 2014 (between 4-6%). The same thing happened with the inflation forecast.
It was dead wrong about everything. The Government only had pure voluntarism and tons of wishful thinking.
The first step to be taken is that of curbing public expenditures (one very hard to take as a matter of fact), because it cannot simply stay away from a very hungry partisan-administrative fauna with very sharp teeth.
It takes an energetic kind of government with clarity of ends and means to right the wrongs. Unfortunately, we can’t see that happening anywhere.
The budget for 2014 has surpassed public expenditures for 2013 by 39% already. From there one can figure out that the people from the Government still don’t have clear what the magnitude of the issue is. Sometimes one can also see a few backers of the chavismo joking around with ironic tone that “we’ll obtain the final victory by making mistake after mistake.” These people look into the future with purely wishful thinking.