Archive for February 17th, 2005

Great sayings of the day by Venezuelans or related issues

February 17, 2005

Of things said by Venezuelan Government officials and Fidel Castro today and my first two instictive answers to these statements:


Vice-President Rangel: “Venezuela is Latin America’s most stable country”


 


1) Allende and Pinochet used to say the same thing about Chile


 


2) Does he know Costa Rica is in Latin America?


 


Head of Corpovargas: “The Comptroller’s Office has revised and intervened (?) all of the finances of the Corporation without finding any corruption”


 


1) The Comptroller’s Office has not found any corruption in Venezuela in the last six years.


 


2) Somebody is not doing their job.


 


President of the CNE: “I think it would be difficult to hold recall referenda against National Assembly Deputies”


 


1) It would not be the fist time you violate the rights of the voters


 


2) Didn’t the Supreme Court cancel the vote; doesn’t the law say you have to hold them after 92 days of gathering the signatures?


 


Fidel Castro: “Still not enough Doctors In Cuba”


 


1) We have some Cuban doctors in Venezuela we could send you, but maybe they are not even Doctors!


 


2) What if we send you Venezuelan Doctors instead of all that oil? Our Government simply does not want to hire them.

Great sayings of the day by Venezuelans or related issues

February 17, 2005

Of things said by Venezuelan Government officials and Fidel Castro today and my first two instictive answers to these statements:


Vice-President Rangel: “Venezuela is Latin America’s most stable country”


 


1) Allende and Pinochet used to say the same thing about Chile


 


2) Does he know Costa Rica is in Latin America?


 


Head of Corpovargas: “The Comptroller’s Office has revised and intervened (?) all of the finances of the Corporation without finding any corruption”


 


1) The Comptroller’s Office has not found any corruption in Venezuela in the last six years.


 


2) Somebody is not doing their job.


 


President of the CNE: “I think it would be difficult to hold recall referenda against National Assembly Deputies”


 


1) It would not be the fist time you violate the rights of the voters


 


2) Didn’t the Supreme Court cancel the vote; doesn’t the law say you have to hold them after 92 days of gathering the signatures?


 


Fidel Castro: “Still not enough Doctors In Cuba”


 


1) We have some Cuban doctors in Venezuela we could send you, but maybe they are not even Doctors!


 


2) What if we send you Venezuelan Doctors instead of all that oil? Our Government simply does not want to hire them.

Venezuela’s Government revolutionary salaries

February 17, 2005

You know, it used to be that Hugo Chavez would say that PDVSA workers were over privileged, they made so much more than the average Venezuelan. Well, it is now six years of the Chavez Government and:


–I find out the President of the Venezuelan Supreme Court just retired with a monthly salary of US$ 10,000 adjusted anytime the Court’s salaries are adjusted.


 


–And former Vice-Minister of Finance Bermudez tells a US Court that he made US$ 146.666 in 2002, which I thought not even Chavez made that much.


 


–And from PDVSA’s budget I discover that the average PDVSA worker makes today US$39,000 a year, versus US$ 30,000 before the strike.


 


All of this despite the fact that the currency has devalued from Bs. 700 per US$ to 1920 per US$ in the last three years.


 


Thus, I have to wonder, poverty is up but the salaries of the privileged Government workers are up significantly in real terms since Chavez got to power. Something is wrong with this picture, no?


 


I still remember, the former Head of the budget office Guiacaipuro Lameda in 1999 (he later became head of PDVSA) talking about the fact that he was bothered by the fact that he was making Bs. 2 million a month as  a General and Head of OCEPRE, while so many people went hungry in Venezuela. He said every time that he had to make a budget decision he thought about this dichotomy and how unfair it was as a way of deciding on the issue. I understood exactly what he meant. Why did Chavez drop people like Lameda from his side?

Venezuela’s Government revolutionary salaries

February 17, 2005

You know, it used to be that Hugo Chavez would say that PDVSA workers were over privileged, they made so much more than the average Venezuelan. Well, it is now six years of the Chavez Government and:


–I find out the President of the Venezuelan Supreme Court just retired with a monthly salary of US$ 10,000 adjusted anytime the Court’s salaries are adjusted.


 


–And former Vice-Minister of Finance Bermudez tells a US Court that he made US$ 146.666 in 2002, which I thought not even Chavez made that much.


 


–And from PDVSA’s budget I discover that the average PDVSA worker makes today US$39,000 a year, versus US$ 30,000 before the strike.


 


All of this despite the fact that the currency has devalued from Bs. 700 per US$ to 1920 per US$ in the last three years.


 


Thus, I have to wonder, poverty is up but the salaries of the privileged Government workers are up significantly in real terms since Chavez got to power. Something is wrong with this picture, no?


 


I still remember, the former Head of the budget office Guiacaipuro Lameda in 1999 (he later became head of PDVSA) talking about the fact that he was bothered by the fact that he was making Bs. 2 million a month as  a General and Head of OCEPRE, while so many people went hungry in Venezuela. He said every time that he had to make a budget decision he thought about this dichotomy and how unfair it was as a way of deciding on the issue. I understood exactly what he meant. Why did Chavez drop people like Lameda from his side?

Former Venezuelan Finance Vice-Minister’s home raided

February 17, 2005

The Prosecutor’s Office raided today the home of the former Vice-Minister of Finance Jesus Bermudez. Bermudez was detained in the US prior to Christmas as he attempted to go in the US with over US$ 37,000 in cash, wish he said were for “Christmas shopping”. Last week Bermudez pleaded guilty in the US and was sentenced to three days in jail and a fine of US$ 250. While there have been reports that Bermudez had returned to Venezuela, my understanding is that he remains in the US and has no plans to return.


This is another test case for the Government in its fight against corruption, as Bermudez clearly can not explain his lifestyle.  I was actually quite surprised by how much money Bermudez made as a Vice-Minister, it is interesting how the revolution has increased the salary of Government official’s to levels unheard of in previous Venezuelan history. (Note: As noted by a reader, the President of the Venezuelan Supreme Court just retired with a salary of US$ 10 K per month, which is paid to him 20 times a year and is adjusted any time the new President of the Court has his salary increased, that is a total of $200 K at the official exchange rate. I was a civil servant for 24 years, reaching the highest levels of salary in the country’s civil service and never made more than $2 K a month even in the best of times. Another triumph of the Chavez revolution?)


 


According to Bermudez’ filing in the US, he made less than US$ 500 K in the last five years in the Ministry, but the house that was raided today would cost no less than that, even if it was not clear whether he owned it or not, but it was located in La Lagunita, one of the two most expensive areas to live in Caracas. Thus, Bermudez has to explain the US$ 37,000 in cash, the house and we still have not heard a coherent explanation for the private jet that he used when going to the US in December. While Bermudez said it was a Government jet belonging to a Government owned company for which he was a consultant, this was immediately denied by Vice-President Rangel at the time. So, who owned that plane? How did Bermudez buy his home if it was his? How could he have so much cash?


 


The Government now has two cases of blatant corruption in his hands: Vargas and Bermudez. Hopefully, this time around it will be more than just hot air surrounding these cases.

Former Venezuelan Finance Vice-Minister’s home raided

February 17, 2005

The Prosecutor’s Office raided today the home of the former Vice-Minister of Finance Jesus Bermudez. Bermudez was detained in the US prior to Christmas as he attempted to go in the US with over US$ 37,000 in cash, wish he said were for “Christmas shopping”. Last week Bermudez pleaded guilty in the US and was sentenced to three days in jail and a fine of US$ 250. While there have been reports that Bermudez had returned to Venezuela, my understanding is that he remains in the US and has no plans to return.


This is another test case for the Government in its fight against corruption, as Bermudez clearly can not explain his lifestyle.  I was actually quite surprised by how much money Bermudez made as a Vice-Minister, it is interesting how the revolution has increased the salary of Government official’s to levels unheard of in previous Venezuelan history. (Note: As noted by a reader, the President of the Venezuelan Supreme Court just retired with a salary of US$ 10 K per month, which is paid to him 20 times a year and is adjusted any time the new President of the Court has his salary increased, that is a total of $200 K at the official exchange rate. I was a civil servant for 24 years, reaching the highest levels of salary in the country’s civil service and never made more than $2 K a month even in the best of times. Another triumph of the Chavez revolution?)


 


According to Bermudez’ filing in the US, he made less than US$ 500 K in the last five years in the Ministry, but the house that was raided today would cost no less than that, even if it was not clear whether he owned it or not, but it was located in La Lagunita, one of the two most expensive areas to live in Caracas. Thus, Bermudez has to explain the US$ 37,000 in cash, the house and we still have not heard a coherent explanation for the private jet that he used when going to the US in December. While Bermudez said it was a Government jet belonging to a Government owned company for which he was a consultant, this was immediately denied by Vice-President Rangel at the time. So, who owned that plane? How did Bermudez buy his home if it was his? How could he have so much cash?


 


The Government now has two cases of blatant corruption in his hands: Vargas and Bermudez. Hopefully, this time around it will be more than just hot air surrounding these cases.

Venezuela’s GDP grew at record pace in 2004

February 17, 2005

The Venezuelan Central Bank announced that GDP went up 17.3% in 2004, the highest such increase recorded by the Central Bank. The increase in oil activities was 8.7% and 17.8% in non-oil activities, while the public sector grew by 11% and the private sector by 18.6%.


This is a very good bounce off the 2003 low and is needed if the standard of living of Venezuelans is to rise significantly. We hope growth continues, although such a high pace is clearly not sustainable. This growth was driven by higher oil prices and strong Government spending. Construction led the growth with 32% increase, after some terrible years of -19.8% in 2002 and -37.4% in 2003.  This is by far the best economic year, in terms of GDP growth, for the Chavez Government which has had the following track record, but it only takes the economy back to the levels of 1997 and below the highest year of economic activity which was 1998:


 


1999          -6.1%


2000          +3.2%


2001          +2.8%


2002          -8.9%


2003          -9.4%


2004          +17.3%

Venezuela’s GDP grew at record pace in 2004

February 17, 2005

The Venezuelan Central Bank announced that GDP went up 17.3% in 2004, the highest such increase recorded by the Central Bank. The increase in oil activities was 8.7% and 17.8% in non-oil activities, while the public sector grew by 11% and the private sector by 18.6%.


This is a very good bounce off the 2003 low and is needed if the standard of living of Venezuelans is to rise significantly. We hope growth continues, although such a high pace is clearly not sustainable. This growth was driven by higher oil prices and strong Government spending. Construction led the growth with 32% increase, after some terrible years of -19.8% in 2002 and -37.4% in 2003.  This is by far the best economic year, in terms of GDP growth, for the Chavez Government which has had the following track record, but it only takes the economy back to the levels of 1997 and below the highest year of economic activity which was 1998:


 


1999          -6.1%


2000          +3.2%


2001          +2.8%


2002          -8.9%


2003          -9.4%


2004          +17.3%

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