What ever happened to Article 315?

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Back in 1999, I was a relatively naive 24 year old, and I’ll confess I was genuinely conflicted about how to vote in the referendum on the new constitution. While I hated the expansion of presidential powers, the lengthened presidential term, and the introduction of immediate reelection, I couldn’t help noticing article 315. It reads:

In anual spending budgets, at all levels of government, clear and specific objectives for each budget item shall be established, along with the concrete goals intended, and the public officials responsible for achieving such goals. Goals shall be established quantitatively in terms of performance benchmarks, insofar as it is technically possible to do so. The executive branch, within six months after the end of each budget year, shall present to the National Assembly an accountability report and a balance sheet on the execution of the spending budget for the preceding fiscal year

The article represents a thoroughgoing revolution in Venezuelan fiscal management, a clean break from the past, and a recipe for hugely increased accountability and vastly more effective public spending…or it would have, if it had ever been implemented. Six years on, I can only shake my head at my own naivete for having thought a Chavez government would take such obligations seriously.

Clear and specific goals? Quantitative benchmarks? Accountability reports? Ni que fueramos suizos…

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