Money for nothing and your lights for free

Allegory of chavismo’s electric policy

There really should be a word for it: the systematic mismatch between the things that cause outrage in our public sphere and the ones that cripple our society’s capacity to offer folks a decent life. Kleptodysplasia, maybe?

That’s what was running through my mind as I read news that, after yet another year of fixed nominal prices amid double-digit inflation, domestic demand for oil products rose 22.6% in the first half of 2012, with diesel-fired electric power plants now hogging a simply obscene 300,000 barrels a day of the stuff.

A little context is needed to grasp the criminal insanity of this situation.

If sold abroad, the diesel we diverted to power generation would have earned $400 for each man, woman and child in the country just in the first half of the year. That’s money the state fails to take in because PDVSA still doesn’t have its shit together enough to deliver the nation’s huge reserves of Natural Gas to the power plants where they’re needed, and so has to divert much, much more expensive diesel to them instead.

Figured at the more realistic green lettuce rate, we’re talking about BsF21 per person per day. For an average household of 5, that’s BsF19,000 gone up in smoke, just like that, in six months.

Imagine what BsF19,000 would mean to the family of one of the inmates in PGV. Imagine what BsF21 per day would mean to the 4 million Venezuelans who now live on less than BsF25 per day. Just think of it.

But diesel is boring and opportunity cost is abstract and so none of this elicits more than a yawn from your average newspaper reader. It makes my blood boil.

Because we’re not even talking about graft here. This isn’t about dysfunction-born-of-greed, which might be morally reprehensible but is at least explicable in terms of despicable people acting in self-interest. This isn’t even about that.

This is about simple, straightforward waste born of a heady mix of incompetence and disinterest, crippling the nation’s capacity to meet its people’s most basic needs.

And what’s our National Assembly busy with? The JCCaldera case! 

Kleptodysplasia por el buche, no joda…

Caracas Chronicles is 100% reader-supported. Support independent Venezuelan journalism by making a donation.