Back in January 2010, Hugo Chávez announced that his administration wanted to promote non-oil exports.
As is customary, he didn’t have a plan, but he had a catchy name for it anyway – in this case, a toll-free number, 0800-EXPORTA, to assist potential exporters.
Since 2000, non-oil exports have dropped by a third.
In the first quarter of 2012, Venezuela’s non-oil sector exported a paltry $1.05 billion. If we multiply this figure by 4, we would be exporting roughly $4.2 billion, or about as much as the exports of Nicaragua or Aruba.
That’s what our non-oil sector is like – Nicaragua or Aruba.
One of the least explored angles of why this is so bad for our economy is related to shipping costs. In countries where the flow of exports and imports is roughly the same, ships dropping stuff off can load goods for export. That way, shipping becomes less expensive, because the ship is not leaving La Guaira empty-handed.
But in our case, ships come in full and they leave empty.
Perhaps the problem is that the person in charge of the Exports hotline is Rafael Ramírez, who also functions as President of PDVSA, Oil Minister, Vice-President for Territorial Development, coordinator of Housing Policy, and Vice-President of the government’s party, the PSUV.
Think he might be feeling a bit over-extended?