Archive for July 9th, 2007

Shortages and inefficiencies bring you back to reality in no time.

July 9, 2007

It is always a shock to come back. Things accumulate and you
spend the day in a daze trying to catch up. I had about 1200 emails at
work, which I had to sort out through. Then I had to make sure I paid my
DSL connection with CANTV, which was not paid automatically because CANTV’s
new billing system is not working too well. In the bizarre logic of
services in Venezuela, I was warned today to make sure I check whether it
is paid or not automatically next month, to insure I don’t get disconnected
again. Of course, it does not seem to occur to any of them that since it is
their billing system that is not working, they may hold off on
disconnecting anyone’s service. In the end it is CANTV that is losing
money, but it is now a “social” company so money is no object or objective
in the revolution. I still have no connection to the Web, but if I move the
laptop to the back of the room and tilt it just so, I manage to get a
fringe signal from a careless wireless network which allows me to do a few
things, even if sometimes I have to stand up with the laptop in my hands to
get a good connection.

But of course, these inefficiencies are
everywhere. So much faith in the ability of the Government to get things
done by the revolution, when in reality it gets very little done or blocks
them from getting done. The supermarket had a clipping from the newspaper
quoting someone in the Central Bank saying that there is a shortage of both
bills and coins in Venezuela. This clipping sort of gave the cashier the
right to ask me for exact change rather than the other way around. It seems
to be my fault if I don’t carry all sorts of combinations of bills and
coins to give them the exact number, because you know there is a shortage
which somehow is not supposed to affect me in the receiving end of things.

Such shortages are not new, they seem to recur in the last few
decades, which was the reason why the Venezuelan mint was started, it was
argued that the delay in ordering bills and coins from abroad did not allow
for the Central Bank to truly manage and plan the needs of the public. So,
lots of money went into setting up the mint, but it seems as if there is
nobody at the Central Bank in charge of estimating the needs for various
denominations of bills and coins as monetary liquidity increases. Or maybe
that person was fired so that someone “rojo, rojito” could be hired to
replace him or her and this last person is still trying to figure out what
all that stuff about monetary liquidity is all about.

It is the
same with passports. A “corruption-proof” system was installed so that you
would have to go to the Internet to get an appointment to get a passport
and the “randomness” of managing to get in the system would make the
playing field even for all Venezuelans. But of course it has done exactly
the opposite. You have to wake up at 4AM to try to get in the system and
hope to get in or you just simply hire one of the many “digital
facilitators” that somehow have managed to get “blank” slots in the
appointment system to get you in for a fair price. But you wonder why
it is that they simply can’t order enough passports to have supply match
demand. After all, if there are 25 million Venezuelans, so many planes
leaving the country each year, so many people going through our borders,
how hard can it be to estimate how many new passports you would need to
have ample supply for four or five years. But maybe even asking such
questions is being hypercritical of the revolutionary process. The problem
is there is little new in this, but the revolution has not fixed it either
and they have been at it for three years longer than anyone
before.

Thus, besides food shortages we now have passports, bills,
coins and now also medicine shortages. You see, to obtain CADIVI dollars
for raw materials for pharmaceuticals at the official rate of exchange, you
have to have all sorts of certifications from various Government
institutions, most of which are fairly inefficient in giving them out.
Then, you apply at CADIVI, which requires an evaluation of your request.
Once you get approved, then you have to go to your bank, get the dollars
and then finally pay your supplier. Your supplier sends the raw materials,
which are checked at customs extensively and if you are lucky enough you
may have them all in place to make the product.

But of course, at
each step there are delays and inefficiencies and in the end there are
medicine shortages. But the problem is never the inefficient and
complicated process, but some sort of Maquiavelic plot by the private
sector to sell regulated medicines at black market prices in line with the
parallel exchange rate, which only exists in the mind of the Head of the
Tax Office. Of course, it does not occur to any of them to think that
exchange and price controls and all of its obstacles and inefficiencies
have anything to do with the problem. After all they invented
them.

And, of course, each step and process may also have a
“facilitator” which makes manufacturing and production more expensive and
in some cases, it is simply not worth selling a product to generate losses,
so you ask for a price increase and wait for approval, which leads to
another shortage.

But you wonder how they can justify the shortage
of bills, coins and passports. After all, these have been showing
widespread shortages, despite the fact that in theory they do not have the
same complicated route to their acquisition. Maybe someday it may occur to
someone that the shortages have a common problem and it happens to be
Government policies and inefficiencies.

In the meantime, the
solution is to create new controls, new steps, and new supervision by the
same thoughtless, idiotic, brainless and inefficient bureaucrats, thus
perfecting the “revolution” that will solve all of our problems in the next
century.

Yeah, sure.

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