Agriculture, corruption and inefficiency

March 21, 2006


Carlos Machado Allison is
an old friend who I had the pleasure of working with at one particularly
exciting part of my life when we believed we could move mountains with no
resources. Since then, he moved on to IESA, where he studies Venezuelan
agriculture. I have translated articles by him before; this one in todays El Universal
is particularly sharp, especially in describing the contradictions in policy
within the Chvez administration.


Agriculture,
corruption and inefficiency
by Carlos Machado Allison

Mister
President, the chain of events that is destroying the basis of agricultural
activity and the morale of the producers, is it part of the revolutionary
design? Or as they say in the streets, your subordinates dont inform you?
Could it all be the fault of the executive Vice-President who leads the
Cabinet? A reporter in the back and forth of his profession, responded to a
Deputy indicating that what the Comptrolling Committee of the Assembly was
doing, referring to the case of the sugar plant, was not an act of heroics, but
was a natural obligation, but later, she evaded the answer when she found out
about the presidential responsibility in the scandal.

Violating
the laws, the properties and presidential promise, a certain celebrity has said
that the revolution is above the laws, but under them there is a systematic
destruction of values, principles, traditions and symbols. Now they will
initiate procedures and someone will be accused. The scandal is too evident.
Change prisoners for votes, a good electoral strategy. As a politician, twenty
points, as administrator you have flunked.


Wasnt
it public knowledge that some trucks with food destined to the mercales
(Government food markets) were not arriving at their destination? Didnt they
tell you about contaminated flour, lost grain and adultered milk? Dont you
know that many loans ended up in phantom co-ops? Didnt you know that the
tomato processing plant, the textile factory in Cojedes and the sugar plant
near Sabaneta, were not running? Can you really believe that you can create 100,000
cooperatives and that a fraction of them will not become a field for
corruption?


Dont you know that the Zamoran
rural farms, promoted invaders and the like, produce next to nothing? It is difficult
to think that you were ignorant of the morosity of the Bank of the People or the
Bank for Women, that on top of everything published no financials. Or that the Industrial
Bank was not doing well. Even then, you approved the creation of an
Agricultural Bank and another for the communities that, for sure, will give out
loans that will never be repaid? Dont you remember that, at the times of the
IVth., a number of times public agricultural banks were shut down because of
corruption and inefficiency?


Your Cabinet approved the
Caaez (sugar plant), designed and oriented by Cubans, despite the history of Government
owned sugar plants. Dont you know that Cuba is the most inefficient
producer of sugarcane in the word? Dont you know that the silos were
privatized for inefficiency and corruption when they belonged to the State?
Dont you remember the scandals of Corpomercadeo and Mersifrica (predecessors
of Mercal)? Didnt you win the elections promising to end corruption and to
make the country an agricultural emporium? Dont you know that each point of
Governmental intervention in the agro-food chain is a focus for potential
corruption?


Did you know that
agricultural financing increased by 45% in 2005 and agricultural production
only by 3%? That agricultural exports reached their lowest historical point and
imports the highest one? Do you ignore that PDVSA, which belongs to all of us,
will inject Bs. 1.5 trillion to the agricultural sector (Bs. 55 thousand per
poor person in the country) so that part of it will have the same destiny as
that of the sugar plant? Have you been told about the inexistent supplies at
the agricultural schools?


The Ministers of Agriculture
and Foodstuffs have come face to face with each other because you ordered one
of them, to make the country self sustaining and the other one, to import
everything so that inflation in food prices does not go up. They will fail
because there is no logic, nor sense, in agro-food policy, repeating the errors
of the past: Exactly the same that at the end of the IVth.
Republic.
Mr. President, I think
that you do know what is happening and are thus responsible.

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