First of all, let me clarify, these figures are not exact, but they tell the story I wanted to tell. To build these figures, I used population data from here and from INE. I found WTI oil prices going back a while. I could not find Venezuelan data going back to 1970, but I know it was about 4.5 million barrels a day then, so I extrapolated that down to 2006 with 3 million barrels, even if I don’t believe production is that high. Similarly, I adjusted WTI to the Venezuelan oil basket using 10% up to 1999 and then 15%. So, it is all approximate, but as you will see the results do not depend on the details.
On the plot above on the left I show WTI average oil prices since 1970, together with the Venezuelan population. The red line is oil price with the left scale, the blue line is the population in millions, which starts around ten million in 1970 and is around 26 million today.
The plot on the right shows total oil income per year (red line, left scale in billions), while the blue line, right scale shows oil income per person each year.
The first thing to notice is that oil income was never as high as it was last year. Moreover, the last three or four years have been the highest accumulated income in history. However, because of the increased population, oil income per capita is not at a peak. Note from the graph that from 1984 to 1998, income was down significantly, total or per capita, which explains why things went down so fast in Venezuela, during those 14 years. However, at the same time, during the last six years, things have been pretty good, but nevertheless things have not improved for the people as much as they should have.
More importantly, note the volatility of the Venezuelan economy with swings from $10 billion to $60 billion in total oil income per year from bottom to top. A factor of six up or down, can swing your popularity mighty fast!