Destiny Calling

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Can you pick out Country X?
Can you pick out Country X?

First off, full disclosure: Omar Z. is a friend – though one I’ve mostly gotten to know through blog stuff – so I’m sure I’m not the most impartial of critics out there.

That said, his latest blog post made me ridiculously, exuberantly giddy. It’s hard to describe the feeling, actually: it’s that deep sense of happiness that comes from seeing someone genuinely talented meet his calling. 

It’s hard to write about his last post without spoilers, but the long and the short of it is that you’ll seldom read something that forces you to fisk your own unexamined assumptions about what’s gone wrong with the Venezuelan economy as effectively as this post. Economic writing this accessible, this counterintuitive, this enlightening and this stylish is not easy to find: it’s important to treasure it when you do.

So listen to me for once: stop what you’re doing and go read it. Right now.

And Omar, chamo, you were born to write about this stuff. Whatever you do, whatever happens: Do. Not. Stop.

1 COMMENT

    • I think you are. Bolivia has had several worker strikes, indigenous pickets, political violence and perhaps some lockouts. I don’t think the pivotal moment in Venezuelan finance was the oil strike. The author has rather convinced me that it’s been the budget tricks, the FONDEN fiasco, the Cuban Fund, the Chinese Fund, BCV funding the government in violation of the Constitution, etc.

      A great article, indeed

  1. I think a big caveat for Omar is on order: what Bolivia seems to be doing is riding a resource boom reasonably well. That’s what Venezuela did for the first half of the XXth Century. Once the boom is over … watch out. Bolivian companies are notoriously inefficient, productivity is still lagging, there are tons of problems with education and the like, so … I’m not that confident Bolivia will remain a haven for growth once prices revert back to the mean.

    • I wonder how Bolivia did it in 2008-2009. Omar seems to suggest it did fine even then. Venezuela’s economy went into recession, according to the Eternal Leader, because of capitalism abroad. In reality Venezuela’s economy seems to almost get into recession even if oil prices just stop rising. It hasn’t got into one probably because all the dosh it got from our Chinese masters. Maybe Bolivia can do fine if prices “just” remain high and it seems prices will remain high for years to come: consumption won’t go down too much, Juan. There are just too many people consuming too many things. Even with recessions: we are too many and that will keep fuel prices high (unless and when an energy shift comes).

      • Kep, Bolivia was not only to avoid recession but grew to the point that was the almost the only regional economy to do so during the crises. Interestingly enough, was one of the few to have the capacity and the willling to attempt to counter ciclical policies to face the crises

  2. http://www.datos-bo.com/Bolivia/Actualidad/PIB-de-Bolivia-crece-604-en-el-primer-trimestre-2013

    “Según el Ministro de Economía, el crecimiento de 6,04% reportados al primer trimestre de este año, superan en 0,94% lo registrado en similar periodo de 2012, cuando el aumento del PIB se cifró en 5,10%.

    Arce explicó que el crecimiento económico registrado hasta marzo, fue impulsado principalmente por el sector de hidrocarburos que activó el 23,83% del PIB, seguido por las áreas financieras, de transporte, construcción, electricidad, servicios de administración pública, manufactura y producción agropecuaria, entre otros.”

    Omar, chamo, con excepción de manufacturas y productos agropecuarios (way at the bottom), puros no transables. Dutch Disease, anyone? Con Enfermedad Holandesa también se crece. Pero no es duradero.

    • Well, I guess you are right. Bolivia is a country still very poor, massively under developed, and plagued with huge development challenges. I guess I was not making a call on the quality of the growth porcess, but only on the macro management of recent years in a country structurally very similar to ours.

  3. Obviously Omar’s blog is a great addition to the Spanish-language blogosphere. He should get a gizmo on there which lets people know each time a new entry is published; that makes sure no one misses one. I would certainly subscribe.

    Here’s my criticism, though: Isn’t it a little wordy? This may come down to a cultural thing, but I want to know which country is being discussed, already in the lede! Or at least give us a headline that says: “Bolivia’s Economic Past Helps It Avoid Venezuela’s Mistakes” or something.

    Do this, and the millions will come.

    • I do not think it’s a cultural thing. I have seen the same technique applied in English and German articles (written by native speakers of those languages): he wanted to think one thing and then show it was not what they expected (Norway it is not but Bolivia!)

      I like the article a lot. One thing a Spanish speaker needs to heed: it’s “les” when referring to plural, “le” when referring to singular. This often forgotten in texts written by Spanish Americans and Andalucians 🙂

    • Thanks Bill, your criticism is very welcome. It is the first time I write for the public, I’m still learning and the feedback is a part of it. On your verbosity comment, Spanish is way less succint than english, but I guess I need to improve the efficiency of my words

    • I don’t agree with Jeffrey House. Creating suspense by not telling you which one is country X until the middle of the article is a very valid and nice way of writing. In fact, this way of writing is used by many renowned writers in many languages.

    • I think is a very cultural thing. Most Spanish readers will found the omission clever, specially because that way you know that the answer is not expected. You English speakers just want to get the point.

  4. Does the author know, or does anybody know, what was the impact of Chavez’ petro-chequera in Bolivia’s miracle?
    Is there a number to quantify how much of Bolivia’s prosperity is the cause of Venezuela’s misery?

    • This is an interesting question. To my knowledge, the source of Bolivia’s prosperity is not Venezuela. It’s the 2005 hydrocarbon tax reform and the new contracts of 2006/2007 that have made the difference for Bolivia. Contributions from Venezuela have not been significant (think of Petroandina…). However, I think Chavez’s donations were crucial for Morales in propelling him to power. Again, though, compared to things like Petrocaribe, this is not a lot of money. Rory Carroll has little on this in his book but I’d be curious to know if there’s someone out there with more info.

  5. Wonder how we compare to Ecuador or Nicaragua , are they doing as well as Bolivia ??, maybe the missing piece is that among the leaders of other Alba countries, none was as afflicted with an overblown hubris and megalomania as our dear defunct Comandante Supremo who dared do things to the economy that no one else dared do, after all he was the messiah , the all knowing and powerful !!

    • Still, I am glad they were not able to turn any of the Oppo members. The MUD forced them to do it by gross manipulation that will not go unnoticed.

  6. Thank you, Quico. Your kind words are mostly undeserved, if anything, Having being a loyal reader of CCs for years, taught me a few tricks. I do have a problem, I was expecting maybe 10 or 20 readers, now I am getting acostumed to the flows of readers coming from this site xD

  7. The news that Bolivia is (economically) so stable does come as somewhat of a surprise given that the international (read:Usa) papers tend to emphasize the water wars (water distribution concessions granted/taken away from foreign investors) and the local liberal coke habit…. Not to mention the strains between the andinos and lowlanders. Politically stable it is not methinks.

    Still I would hazard to guess it is a late comer to the oil party. And like the puny kid that gets bullied by its neighbours, it knows to be careful and avoid conflict.

    • “local liberal coke habit” No such thing, my friend. sure, cocaine use is growing in Bolivia, but far behind its neighbors, particularly Brazil and Argentina, and of course much below United States and Europe, our primary export destinations.

      we have a cocalero problem, not a coca one. I’ll let you figure out what that means if you’re interested. oh, and a stupid useless “war on drugs” problem also.

      its great to see Venezuelan opposition is finally looking around the neighborhood!! most interesting article indeed. many would disagree that this macro stability and growth is a merit of Evo’s government, as has been pointed out already its mostly due to increased mineral and natural gas prices (indexed to Texas oil until 2019 in case of Brazil sales, and also of Argentina until perhaps later). But certainly one of Evo’s merits is to not have removed his economy Minister, who has been in place since 2006 if I’m not mistaken, and was a lower-level bureaucrat during the “neoliberal” era. also he has benefited both economically and symbolically much of the erstwhile invisible “indigenous” population, in a country marked by deep racism and for some, even apartheid-like conditions until well in the 2000’s, even after the 1952 revolution that brought universal suffrage and the first nationalization of mines.

      interestingly, the reduction of poverty overall and increase in social mobility (if only due to cronyism and clientelism excercised by new groups in “power”) has resulted in a major shift, while the 2001 census had over 60% of Bolivians self-identifiying as “indigenous”, the one last year, which was majorly botched anyway, reduced that to less than 40%.

      many would say, we are not a screwed as Venezuela, and the amount of money being wasted by our government pales in comparison to your oil revenue. however, we are certainly headed that direction, as Evo’s illegal 3rd re-election campaign rolls full steam ahead and opposition still has not found a key to break his hardcore following. anyway, great blog link.

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