Good news for once

It’s Holy Week, so in the spirit of reaching out, and finding common ground, a positive story for once: Chinese officials are touring Venezuela’s ports ahead of a major new South-South cooperation drive to facilitate trade.

One of the major obstacles any non-Chávez government will face is Venezuela’s rickety infrastructure. There is simply no way we will be able to establish a democracy without some serious economic and social advancement – and by that, I don’t mean oil-funded handouts that produce ephemeral booms that quickly become busts.

But development is going to require some serious investment in infrastructure. Our roads are in shambles, our electricity grid is barely holding up, and our ports have some of the longest delays in the continent. According to the World Bank, while in Colombia it takes on average 14 days and $1,770 to export a container, in Venezuela it takes 49 days and $2,590. The difference in terms of importing is even wider, with the delays eating up 14 days in Colombia vs. 71 days in Venezuela.

True, some of this is paperwork. But a lot of it is also the infrastructure and management culture in our nation’s ports.

The Chinese know a thing or two about the importance of port infrastructure to turn around an economy. After all, exporting a container from China takes 21 days and a paltry $500. No doubt this low cost is helped by having some of the world’s finest ports, spearheaded by the port of Shanghai, which last year overtook Singapore to become the world’s busiest.

So let’s hope the incompetent, plunderous chavistas that manage what remains of our ports heed the advice of their allies, and we end up with semi-decent, competently-managed ports. Hopefully they won’t just “cooperate” with the Chinese, but let them take the whole ports system over.

We sure could use some nice ports when this nightmare finally ends.

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