I have no idea

The arbitrarily poor

Quico and I had a non-quibble a few days ago about poverty. I criticized poverty measures, and he beat me up about it. Truth is that I agree with him. Poverty is a very complex thing with many definitions: income, savings, choices, and even expenditure. People have tried to package it in a single indicator, but numbers end…

Oil Venezuela

The lost money in oil

Ramón Espinasa, former chief economist of PDVSA and currently a professor at Georgetown, published an outline of the oil industry fifteen years after Chávez was elected (here, in Spanish). I thought it contained interesting tidbits. For example: In 1998, each PDVSA employee was responsible for producing 83 barrels of oil per day on average. Today, it…

MaduroEnElAire

What passes for “pragmatism”

This blog has been trying to follow the ongoing debate about where economic policy is headed under Rafael Ramírez. Today, for example, we eagerly awaited a presidential address where – we hoped – new measures would be announced. We were fools. Nothing of substance was announced. All Maduro said was that every company that had gotten…

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Nothing is free

Our pal Setty has a thoroughly researched, hugely important story on a little footnote in the PDVSA financials. It turns out that, long ago, PDVSA seized some ships from one of its partners, and yadda yadda yadda, Venezuelans lost $644 million. In minute detail, Setty goes through the job of untangling this particular ball of yarn. The…

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On the Uses of Phantasmagoric Profits

Willie Neuman has a really great piece in the New York Times today about the big hit various multinationals’ bottom lines are taken as they’re forced to revalue their Venezuela profits from the fantastical Bs.6.30:$ rate to more realistically devalued levels. A taste: Brink’s, the armored car company, could see about $400 million in revenue…

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Death is easy to find. Coffins? Not so much

Most Venezuelan businesses are having a tough time these days, but you would think funeral homes would be booming – what with a crime wave and all. Turns out funeral homes are just like any other business, albeit slightly creepier: in a recent interview, Ricardo Guedez, member of the Venezuelan Funeral Parlors’ Association (Canadefu), spoke of the multiple…

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What drives the blackouts?

In case you missed it, there was another nationwide blackout eleven days ago which caught Nicolas Maduro offguard right in the middle of a cadena broadcast. This new failure in the power grid wasn’t the only problem recently: the people of Maturin lost all electricity for almost an entire week thanks to “hurricane-like winds” that…

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The underwhelming ascent of the pragmatists

The dust still hasn’t settled in the debate over where the government is headed, vis-a-vis economic policy. Some people think that #LaSalidaDeGiordani means more pragmatic days are coming. Rafael Ramírez himself has been teasing us about this nonstop, basically mouthing off against the very policies he helped implement and finance. And yet, on the actual…

pdvsa

Let’s wiki-audit PDVSA

Setty just posted a first-glance analysis of PDVSA’s audited financial statements for 2013. How about all you accountants, economists, and number geeks out there wiki the thing? Let’s see just how “pragmatic” Mr. Ramirez really is. If you have time, go through the thing and highlight the relevant aspects. Here’s hoping it makes for an interesting…

With this finger, I control your destiny

It’s Rafa’s world

Whomever you choose to support in the current debate raging among Venezuelan economists (suggesting, by the way, that we economists need to tone it down and get out more), there is one thing we can all agree on: Rafael Ramírez is firmly in control of economic policy. This doesn’t mean he’s in control of the…

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Strawmanslaughter

I was disappointed to see Miguel Angel Santos, normally so lucid, join the unhinged chorus of voices passionately arguing against a straw-man made to stand in for Francisco Rodríguez’s position on macro-economic adjustment. I can understand why a guy like Luis García Mora, who plainly doesn’t understand what adjustment is, could find comfort in arguing against…

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Last Rites (UPDATED: A Juan Barreto Special)

Everybody’s got their favorite bit of Jorge Giordani’s heartfelt swan song, a letter he calls “Testimony and Accountability Before History.” Personally, this is the ‘graph I just couldn’t get past: In this path of the Bolivarian process, it was crucial to conquer the challenge of [the Presidential election of] October 7th 2012, as well as…

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The End of the Monk (UPDATED)

Jorge Giordani, who as Planning Minister has done more damage to Venezuela’s economy than any single thing since Zumaque I, has been shunted out of the cabinet altogether for the first time in 15 years. Official titles don’t come close to capturing his influence. A Utopian socialist with a soft spot for Kim Il Sung, Giordani is the…