Archive for October 11th, 2004

Voting process difficult, according to CNE Director. Oh really?

October 11, 2004

All of a sudden the genius and all powerful CNE Director Jorge Rodriguez realizes that the voting process may take too much time: “We have time problems, due to the difficulty of the process, this is due to the difficulty in the process”….”this is much more complex than that of the presidential recall vote”.


You mean to tell me they did not consider this when they bought the machines? Could it possibly be that they were thinking only of the recall vote when they bought them and considered their design? So, they spent a zillion dollars on machines that were ideal for a Yes/No vote that did not even require electronic voting? What is going to happen when next summer those same voters will have to vote, not for one Mayor and one Governor, but for dozens of choices for Deputies of the National Assembly?  They did not think of that? Bunch of amateurs!


 


In fact, when I went to the practice run of the voting system on Jul.18th. I said: “Simple enough for a single vote, I thought the screen might be too small for a multiple election.” Now, this was based on a thirty second test of the machine by a non-expert, but it seems nobody thought of this when they spent more than US$ 100 million in voting machines that most of the time will be used for multiple elections rather than a simple “Yes” and “No” vote. These are the arrogant and “revolutionary” administrators of our “democracy”.

More on increased royalties for heavy oil projects

October 11, 2004

While Venezuelan officials in the local media tried to downplay the possible effects of yesterday’s announcement that Venezuela will change the 1% royalty tax to 16.6%, the reality is different. Obviously, the fear is not as the President of PDVSA said today, that foreign oil companies may leave, but that they may not find the country attractive.


Minister of Energy and Mines Ramirez said that these companies “would not protest”  and that the Venezuelan Government had “excellent” relations with foreign oil companies.


 


The truth is that the main problem with the increased royalty is not how it will affect the operating companies, but the precedent of unilaterally changing conditions on established contracts is not something that will encourage companies looking to invest in Venezuela. In fact, the new Hydrocarbon law says that the royalty should be between 20% and 30% on new projects, which the Chavez Government itself has been bypassing, so what is to stop it on the future from increasing the royalties even further?


 


This is the view in today’s Wall Street Journal (by subscription):


 


“The government hopes to attract billions of dollars in investment for new projects in the Orinoco area, but by changing the rules, industry watchers say, Mr. Chavez has raised doubts about Venezuela‘s willingness to honor contracts with private oil companies.”


 


“The latest wrinkle could send some companies back to the drawing board. An executive with a major oil company that is a partner in one of the projects said it is “too early to say” if the tax increase would derail plans for new projects in the area.”


 


To me, this is the bigger problem; Chavez and his administration seem to act as if they were the only choice in the world. If Canada has a 1% royalty, what could be the attraction to doing a heavy oil plant in Venezuela and not in Canada?


 


A better way would have been to negotiate with the companies that partner up with PDVSA in these projects. Each of these projects produces or is scheduled to produce roughly 200,000 barrels of the combination of heavy cruders and of synthetic fuels per day. They were supposed to break even at US$ 12-15 per barrel for the Venezuelan oil basket, thus with the oil basket at, let’s say US$ 30 per barrel (this may be a little high), each of the projects is generating an additional US$ 1.05 billion in profit per year!. Thus, it would have seemed reasonable for the Government to negotiate the increase in the royalty in exchange for increased production or new areas and I am sure international oil companies would have been amenable to negotiate them.


 


In the end, the net result on collection by the Government is smaller than the 15.6% difference in royalties. PDVSA owns roughly 42% of each of the projects, so that the new royalties in some sense represent a transfer from PDVSA profit to Government royalty. Moreover, there will also be lower taxes. My back of the envelope calculation is that the Government will receive US$ 400 million more in royalties, but will lose about US$ 150 million in taxes and PDVSA will receive US$ 150 million less in profits. Of course, the Government will now receive the royalties directly and regularly rather than via PDVSA dividends. Unfortunately, this difference may not be compensated by future dividends if one takes into account new projects that go elsewhere in the world.

More on increased royalties for heavy oil projects

October 11, 2004

While Venezuelan officials in the local media tried to downplay the possible effects of yesterday’s announcement that Venezuela will change the 1% royalty tax to 16.6%, the reality is different. Obviously, the fear is not as the President of PDVSA said today, that foreign oil companies may leave, but that they may not find the country attractive.


Minister of Energy and Mines Ramirez said that these companies “would not protest”  and that the Venezuelan Government had “excellent” relations with foreign oil companies.


 


The truth is that the main problem with the increased royalty is not how it will affect the operating companies, but the precedent of unilaterally changing conditions on established contracts is not something that will encourage companies looking to invest in Venezuela. In fact, the new Hydrocarbon law says that the royalty should be between 20% and 30% on new projects, which the Chavez Government itself has been bypassing, so what is to stop it on the future from increasing the royalties even further?


 


This is the view in today’s Wall Street Journal (by subscription):


 


“The government hopes to attract billions of dollars in investment for new projects in the Orinoco area, but by changing the rules, industry watchers say, Mr. Chavez has raised doubts about Venezuela‘s willingness to honor contracts with private oil companies.”


 


“The latest wrinkle could send some companies back to the drawing board. An executive with a major oil company that is a partner in one of the projects said it is “too early to say” if the tax increase would derail plans for new projects in the area.”


 


To me, this is the bigger problem; Chavez and his administration seem to act as if they were the only choice in the world. If Canada has a 1% royalty, what could be the attraction to doing a heavy oil plant in Venezuela and not in Canada?


 


A better way would have been to negotiate with the companies that partner up with PDVSA in these projects. Each of these projects produces or is scheduled to produce roughly 200,000 barrels of the combination of heavy cruders and of synthetic fuels per day. They were supposed to break even at US$ 12-15 per barrel for the Venezuelan oil basket, thus with the oil basket at, let’s say US$ 30 per barrel (this may be a little high), each of the projects is generating an additional US$ 1.05 billion in profit per year!. Thus, it would have seemed reasonable for the Government to negotiate the increase in the royalty in exchange for increased production or new areas and I am sure international oil companies would have been amenable to negotiate them.


 


In the end, the net result on collection by the Government is smaller than the 15.6% difference in royalties. PDVSA owns roughly 42% of each of the projects, so that the new royalties in some sense represent a transfer from PDVSA profit to Government royalty. Moreover, there will also be lower taxes. My back of the envelope calculation is that the Government will receive US$ 400 million more in royalties, but will lose about US$ 150 million in taxes and PDVSA will receive US$ 150 million less in profits. Of course, the Government will now receive the royalties directly and regularly rather than via PDVSA dividends. Unfortunately, this difference may not be compensated by future dividends if one takes into account new projects that go elsewhere in the world.

Chavez wins Lybian human rights award

October 11, 2004

President Hugo Chavez was awarded the Moammar Gadhafi Human Rights Award this weekend according to a CNN report. The award was given to Chavez for resisting “imperialism” and being a champion of the poor. It also praised Chavez for his “brave heart, intelligent mind, eloquent oratory and firm hand.”


Well, let’s analyze the award and we will se that is actually quite well deserved. First of all, given Chavez’ record on human rights, it is quite fitting that he should win an award named after Gadhafi, since I am imagining it means human rights “Gadhafi style”, i.e. repression, intolerance, , persecution of reporters, threats against the media etc..


 


Second, champion of the poor is also very well deserved. When Hugo Chavez became President, according to the National Institute for Statistics there were 11.41 million people living in poverty in Venezuela. Today according to the same institute there are 14.50 million, thus Chavez deserves the title “Champion of the poor”, since he has helped create 3.1 million new ones in the last five years, despite oil prices increasing four fold.


 


Third, he was cited for his “eloquent oratory”, also well deserved, as every Sunday he talks for five or six hours and surprises Venezuelans two or three other times a week with two or three hours of improvised speeches. 


 


Finally, the prize cites him for his “firm hand” which I imagine means exactly the opposite of tolerance, compassion, unity and democracy, where Chavez also has definitely not done a great job in the last five years.


 


Fidel Castro was a previous winner of the award, leaving no doubt as to why Chavez is being awarded this prize. Castro’s name, together with the namesake of the prize certifies who Hugo Chavez is and what he stands for.


 


Next year the prize may go to a “soft” choice in Jimmy Carter unless the committee decides to give it to the only one that can top Castro, Gadhafi and Chavez: Robert Mugawe. The problem is, if Mugawe gets it, how can the prize top itself in the future? In fact, if Mugawe wins it, shouldn’t they change the name of the prize and  name it after him?


 

Chavez wins Lybian human rights award

October 11, 2004

President Hugo Chavez was awarded the Moammar Gadhafi Human Rights Award this weekend according to a CNN report. The award was given to Chavez for resisting “imperialism” and being a champion of the poor. It also praised Chavez for his “brave heart, intelligent mind, eloquent oratory and firm hand.”


Well, let’s analyze the award and we will se that is actually quite well deserved. First of all, given Chavez’ record on human rights, it is quite fitting that he should win an award named after Gadhafi, since I am imagining it means human rights “Gadhafi style”, i.e. repression, intolerance, , persecution of reporters, threats against the media etc..


 


Second, champion of the poor is also very well deserved. When Hugo Chavez became President, according to the National Institute for Statistics there were 11.41 million people living in poverty in Venezuela. Today according to the same institute there are 14.50 million, thus Chavez deserves the title “Champion of the poor”, since he has helped create 3.1 million new ones in the last five years, despite oil prices increasing four fold.


 


Third, he was cited for his “eloquent oratory”, also well deserved, as every Sunday he talks for five or six hours and surprises Venezuelans two or three other times a week with two or three hours of improvised speeches. 


 


Finally, the prize cites him for his “firm hand” which I imagine means exactly the opposite of tolerance, compassion, unity and democracy, where Chavez also has definitely not done a great job in the last five years.


 


Fidel Castro was a previous winner of the award, leaving no doubt as to why Chavez is being awarded this prize. Castro’s name, together with the namesake of the prize certifies who Hugo Chavez is and what he stands for.


 


Next year the prize may go to a “soft” choice in Jimmy Carter unless the committee decides to give it to the only one that can top Castro, Gadhafi and Chavez: Robert Mugawe. The problem is, if Mugawe gets it, how can the prize top itself in the future? In fact, if Mugawe wins it, shouldn’t they change the name of the prize and  name it after him?


 

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