Another great Editorial in Thursday’s Tal Cual
The Curse by Teodoro Petkoff
My subtitle: The Devil’s Excrement revisited
Those that do not learn from history are condemned to repeating it, said a philosopher (and another one had said before him that repetition, in general, is like a farce). Venezuela is living anew under the sign of the oil boom; once again the umbrella of oil prices beyond all delirium, envelopes our economy…and our politics. In the 70’s we live through this and also in the 80’s. For the third time, the country is literally swimming in petrodollars.
What remained of those booms? Were the dreams of development, social well being and political stability fulfilled? On the contrary! a long period of economic decline that has now lasted for a quarter of a century, accompanied by the horrifying impoverishment of our society, both in its middle levels as well as the most humble ones.
Well into the 90’s, the signs of crisis in the political system were visible. The “Caracazo”, the military coups of 1992, the victory of Caldera the outsider, leading a coalition of “groupuscules” from the left, that announced the Chavez’ subsequent victory, were the tolls of a gigantic bell of destiny that was ringing for a weakened political system.
In the happy years of the “fat barrels”, the state apparatus hypertrophied itself, it turned heavy and obese, the bureaucratic fat covered its muscles, state institutions were sacrificed in the altar of presidentialism and executivism (the parliament was minimized, justice mediatized, the mechanisms of control notched down). The State expanded into dozens of new organizations and companies, whose inefficiency ran even with the out of orbit job mania that populated them. Rentism and the search for income were the dominant variables both in the public and the private sector.
The maximization of oil income exaggerated social, economic and political pressures coming from all interest groups of society, to put their hand, legally or illegally, to the largest possible piece of that income. The overflow of corruption was the inevitable excrescence that appeared on the body of the administration.
CAP had offered to manage abundance with criteria of shortage. It was not possible.
Even before the “thin barrels’ had returned, the oil income had diluted in an out of control current public spending, in expensive projects and of little or null profitability and an important part of it moved abroad, in a colossal capital flight. It is the curse of the petrosates.
Can we escape this time that unknown force? Up to know in the behavior of Chavez Government there is nothing that point to it. They are repeating the patterns of behavior that once left the bitter retaste of failure. Countering the dynamic and logic of petrostate societies requires political will, together with the knowledge of them, which does not appear to exist in the Government.
Once again rentism marks public economic behavior; once again pressures of all sorts are taking us to waste gigantic income, to increment the fiscal deficit and to make grow public debt. The state apparatus expands even more its jurisdiction…and its inefficiency. Super ministries, superpowers, missions express: It is a broken record. Everything has the air of something seen before.