Wonky. Specific. Bread-and-butter Centered. Straightforward.

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I think Julio Borges’s attacks on Chávez’s foreign largesse are getting more and more effective: with the $13.5 billion Venezuela sends abroad in various subsidized oil schemes to bolster Chávez’s political allies, you could afford to get rid of Value Added Tax altogether. In other words, you pay IVA so Lukashenko can repress Belorussians better.

Obviously, a line like that is only likely resonate people who think the gov’t-vs.-opposition question is about who can run the country better, not with the people who see it as a matter of meta-cosmic struggle between transcendent good and ontological evil. But then, the shouting match with the loonie squad is a giant distraction in the first place, no?

One nagging thought, though: what if instead of “with that money, we could do away with IVA?” it had been “with that kind of money, we could guarantee every mother of every poor kid in Venezuela received a Bs.F880 beca every month if she makes sure her kids go to school regularly and get their check-ups on time.”

Now that’s pushing the policy-making envelope!

1 COMMENT

  1. Nice. Agree. But as with a game of chess, think of what your opponent’s response could be. chavez has already shown that he’s willing to promise la tarjeta del buen vivir. If you start with a conditioned cash transfer (CCT) that requires initial and regular reviews, but chavez counters with an initial review credit card that requires no regular maintenance, he will trump you. If you then come back and remove conditions, the whole thing becomes wishy washy, and chavez wins.

    One of the reasons to go conditionless, is the political selling power. Compare:

    “guarantee every mother of every poor kid in Venezuela received a Bs.F880 beca every month if she makes sure her kids go to school regularly and get their check-ups on time”

    guarantee each Venezuelan, adults and kids, 6BSF per day, for life.

    Granted, one of the reasons to go with the condition is just to get people to back cash transfers to begin with, but consider chavez’s credit card. He convinced a lot of people very quickly. And we still haven’t seen all he’s willing to promise, with new oil money to boot; I see us losing one more time, unless we wake up. We need to rile people up with: Dame Mi Plata. chavez cannot trump that. That simple.

  2. I hate to say it (because I’m not a fan of unconditional cash transfers), but Torres has a good point. It seems our options are matching whatever Chavez is willing to promise to stay in power or be the sensible, brainy, long term thinking but ultimately un-electable opposition.

    As most things in life, a hybrid approach might be the solution here. Make “Dame mi plata” an electoral launching board plan. In it you would distribute cash unconditionally to all Venezuelans residing in the country and it would be funded with oil income. On top of that you could also offer some sort of Conditional Cash Transfer to encourage behavioral changes that promote growth in the long run (attending school, medical checkups, etc…). This part of the program would not be as expensive as the oil funded unconditional cash transfers and it could be funded by creating a tax on the more forward thinking, long term viewed part of society (Business and the well off).

  3. We should be clear that Cédula del Buen Vivir was neither a conditional or an unconditional cash transfer; IT’S A CREDITCARD! You have to pay it back…

    We also need to be attuned to what the Public Opinion research showed about Mi Negra: unconditional cash transfer proposals send regular people’s bullshit detectors ringing. It sounds too good to be true, it sounds like a manipulation, people straight out don’t believe it. And those that do, immediately ask “but why should my neighbor so-and-so, who’s a lazy slob and doesn’t even work, get free money?”

    There’s a kind of deep Folk Wisdom that’s offended by the entire notion of unconditional cash transfers. That’s not likely to change.

    The credibility costs of proposing unconditional cash transfers are too high for an opposition with a credibility problem to take on.

  4. Well, you are supossed to pay back, but the folk wisdom also says: “if you don’t pay to the goverment nothing happens”
    I have seen it a lot with the micro credits to enterpreneurs, they don’t pay back and the bank assumes the losses and since they didn’t have any collateral in the first place there is no way for the goverment to get the money back. So, it ends up being a cash tranfer too.
    But I totally agree, it’s going to be hard to convince people of unconditional cash transfers, specially the ones who know don’t like misiones and other ways of giving away money. We have to remember that the challenge is to get a solid mayority. That implies luring back the chavistas light that don’t like the current state of affairs (the hard core would never vote against chavez anyway) without alienating the base.

  5. Quico, I challenge your Public Opinion research. I saw the numbers of people registering for Mi Negra. It was growing exponentially. Mi Negra had only two problems: It started too late, and it was too complicated.

    I also challenge your research because of my experience talking to all kinds of Venezuelans. The only ones giving pushback were those that were not poor. 100% of those that were poor were ready to sign up immediately. I think you underestimate the mass that supports chavez; they understand very well that the oil revenue could easily be directed to debit card deposits. It’s just a matter of having an opposition leader asking and arguing with conviction: “Why shouldn’t we all have our share of that money? It’s ours!” I tell you, his supporters are the last ones chavez wants chanting: Dame mi plata. And chant they would. Me with them.

    • It’s not unimagineable that this could be messaged in a way that “works” – but the messenger would matter enormously. It’s a matter of *credbility*: it may well be true that, on on one, people find your idea great Torres – I don’t doubt that at all. It can be true *at*the*same*time* though that when they hear it coming out of a politico’s mouth, it trips up all kinds of Bullshit sensors and they react by dismissing it as an attempt to manipulate you.

      I’ll just say this, before you launch into any such strategy, I want los pelos en la mano. I want exhaustive polling and focus group work, I want to be sure that the intended audience is going to come along.

      Much of this is, of course, the Mi Negra hangover: back in 2006, they “winged it” (partly, it should be said, because candidate selection was done so late that Rosales didn’t have time to properly research his messaging.) By winging it, they botched the message. And in botching the message, they created new barriers to future entrants.

      One thing I do know, though: the politics of Conditional Cash Transfer work. They’ve worked in Brazil, in Mexico, in Nicaragua, in countries big and small, poor and middle income. This is a programme with PROVEN political viability. Good enough for me!

  6. I can’t believe this discussion is even taking place!

    “with that kind of money, we could guarantee every mother of every poor kid in Venezuela received a Bs.F880 beca every month if she makes sure her kids go to school regularly and get their check-ups on time.”

    Maria is right. So right. The only value of this comment is as an argumentation strategy, and the argumentation is usually lost to most because people make decisions emotionally.

    I’m sorry, but one has to _create_ conscience and to seriously propose to give away money does exactly the opposite. It destroys instead of create value.

    • Here’s another reason to go for Conditional Cash Transfer: not only are they great social policy proven to fight poverty and increase school-attendance and children’s health, but they also outrage the hard right and help you position yourself as a moderate via triangulatory contrast!

        • Please, explain. What’s not right? That people get what’s theirs given to them? Or that, instead of giving it to them, the government use it as if it had been taxed money, which, by the way, makes it a very regressive spending?

          Is it right to have kids going hungry at night because some people wish to decide/control how oil money is best spent, money which is not theirs to decide/control, over and above how their parents would decide/control it should be spent?

          Is it right that *you* decide what is right?

          What, exactly, is not right?

          • Ehem, Torres, you need to buy a new sarcasm detector, my friend.
            Just the first line should be telling.
            Maybe you cannot understand English either because you are tainted by Romance Languages and wild, mind confusing emotions like empathy.
            (That was sarcasm too 😉

          • You’re absolutely right. I was completely blind to what now seems obvious. Sorry. Will try to read more carefully.

            You’re also right about the linguistic melchocha mixed with electrochemical turmoils of the figurative heart… 😉

  7. I have a question. If one were in the shoes of an opposition member in the AN, how would one rebut against these statements:

    Although this is probably creating a different subject, it seems to me that the opposition in the AN (Asamblea Nacional) is “supposed” to be a “legitimate” and “serious” beginning towards combating the current government.

    However I think that the opposition is massively failing at debating against these loonytunes. I base my opinion on what happened between Julio Borges and Diosdado Cabello in January ( a couple of weeks ago) when they entered into a ridiculous name-calling, U-did-this-I-did-that circle. Meanwhile the country of course is driven to economic, social, *moral*etc decadence.

    Please Correct me if I’m wrong but for an opposition member, there is a wealth of information that can be objectively used in a debate against those Chavez supporters in the AN. Hell, this blog has a wealth of Info…
    Imagine you, Quico, or Juan, or torres Up there in la “AN” debating against Maduro.

    Is it really that easy? or is the opposition equally inefficient? or am I completely wrong about seriously worrying about this opposition’s competency.

    • I wouldn’t be so harsh, I have seen a few very good rebuttals from deputies to other topics, the best of them by Maria Corina Machado. The rules of debate the last assembly put in place meant to do that, make it hard to the opposition to actually speak up. But they are managing, some better than others, but I still don’t think the situation is dire. Maduro’s a Jaua claims were so outrageous that I doubt even Chavistas believe them.

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