Optimizing What?

The previous post got a pretty good debate going about oil policy. One point, though, kept coming up in different ways from different commenters: seeing “optimizing the tax take” as the goal of the exercise is badly misguided. It’s the development outcomes associated with oil exploitation that we need to optimize, not the tax take.…

You can’t put optimal oil policy on a bumper sticker

…well, not a sensible bumper sticker, anyway. Oil policy in a context like Venezuela’s is irreducibly complex. You could say you want to maximize the cash flow to the public purse, but it only takes a moment’s reflection to realize that’s a non-answer, because the question becomes – when? The policy that will maximize the…

XIIIth Century Socialism

So far we haven’t commented much on chavismo’s batty new Law on Fair Costs and Prices – mostly because it’s too depressing. Criticizing the economics behind it in detail would be farcical, like a point-by-point scientific refutation of the idea that a cow can jump over the moon. Suffice it to say that the law…

Mr. Big Oil

What would oil policy look like in a Leopoldo López presidency? 1. Lots of investment in production, geared toward making Venezuela the world’s top producer 2. Lots of investment in gas, making us the continent’s top gas exporter. 3. Democratize the industry. 4. The creation of a solidarity fund with oil rents to finance poverty-alleviation…

Borrowing at Credit Card Rates

Let’s be clear: for a country to issue a sovereign bond with an 11.95% coupon is really just a polite way of saying it’s broke. Moderately responsible individuals in the first world can literally get credit card debt cheaper than that. Over the last year or two, we’ve all gotten pretty much inured to news…

Annals of Goal Post Locomotion

In 2008, PDVSA said they planned to produce 5.8 million barrels per day by 2012. In 2009, it was 4.9 million b/d by 2013. In 2010, they pledged 4.46 million b/d in production by 2015. Now they’re saying they’ll get to 4 million b/d by 2015. …and if it wasn’t for Setty, we wouldn’t even hear about…

Tinderbox meets match

There’s a lot to digest in today’s appointment of La Comandante Fosforito (in English, Commander Firecracker) as Minister for the Penitentiary System. It’s no secret that Venezuela’s prison system is one big, hot mess. The buildings themselves are decaying and overcrowded. If you enter there as a petty criminal, chances are you’ll come out either…

Pran in Chief (Updated)

To tackle Venezuela’s #1 Human Rights issue by heading the shiny new Special Ministry for Prisons Hugo Chávez has tapped none other than…the crazy lady whose idea of parliamentary debate involves leaving César Pérez Vivas’s face looking like this! Dear. Lord. Update: Primero Justicia actually thinks she’ll do a good job. (!??!) Fellow bloggers, perhaps drunk…

The litmus test

“If he can make getting a cédula easier, then I will consider supporting him.” I remember thinking and saying this back in 1999, when Hugo Chávez was first elected. The experience of my previous two cédulas, Venezuela’s indispensable ID cards, had been traumatic for me. I am ashamed to admit that both of my trips…

Nationalizing Cement Plants while Privatizing Schools

Here’s a crazy thing:  turns out the Chávez government – you know, the same one that has managed to nationalize everything from black bean imports to cement manufacturing – is slowly, gradually privatizing the school system. According to the government’s own data, the proportion of children in mandatory education going to private schools has risen…

Good News/Bad News

Datanalisis’s latest shows Chávez’s popularity holding steady in the wake of his cancer diagnosis, and Henrique Capriles well out ahead in the opposition primary race. It’s a good news/bad news kind of read: Good news: Capriles beats Chávez among self-described independents by better than 2-to-1. Bad news: he’d still lose the race-if-it-was-held-this-Synday by a hair…

When Unity Becomes a Wedge Issue

The lazy point to make about La Vino Tinto’s exhilarating run at the Copa América this year is that it’s a rare, exciting moment of National Unity – fútbol as the one last bastion of non-polarization in a politically fractured nation. But there’s an odd paradox surrounding that line: celebrating the “unity” La Vino Tinto…