Our future at fire-sale prices

Juan Cristóbal says: – Not content with issuing debt to finance capital flight, as they did a few weeks ago, the Chávez administration recently announced a new round of debt to finance even more capital flight, this time backed by the third-world thrift store that is PDVSA. One small problem stood in its way: not enough buyers.

Investing in Venezuela is way too risky even if you earn an infinity rate of return.

So what does the government do? Why, sweeten the debt emission deal, of course!

Yesterday, PDVSA said they would not change the conditions. The Central Bank chief parroted that line. But since they have no credibility to save any more, today they did the exact opposite and announced a heavily edulcorated new set of incentives to get people to buy their bonds.

The new rules exempt the interest earned from holding the government’s debt from taxes. With this measure, the government ups the ante: not only is it encouraging you to take you capital abroad, it’s actually paying you to do so.

The rules also say that holdings of these Boli-delicious, guapo-doble-con-queso bonds will not count toward bank holdings of foreign currency. As you may recall, a few months ago the government decreed to place a limit on the percentage of their capital Venezuelan banks could keep in foreign currencies. This caused a lot of scrambling among bankers who, wouldn’t you know, held a lot of foreign currency.

Well, in a reversal, banks can now hold these PDVSA dollar bonds and not have it count. And bankers who buy the bonds will be eligible for a free weekend at the Margarita Hilton …

Apparently, the constant threat of nationalization wasn’t enough to keep them on their toes. Now the government has to sweet-talk the banks into buying their debt.

But that’s how it is. We’ve gone to this proverbial well so many times, nobody wants to lend to us any more. Cuz you know the government’s finances are in desperate shape when it has trouble pimping its papers to the Victor Vargases and Arne Chacons of the world.