Shortage of excuses

It is rather irresponsible to make harsh statements without hard data to sustain them (thank you, Central Bank!), but we are going to go out on a limb and say that Venezuelans face multiple shortages on a daily basis. Now, we know that shortages (and rationing) are a side product of Venezuela’s failed Socialismo del Siglo XXI model. But the Central Government has other theories, each one more outlandish than the next.

On the one hand, President Maduro claims that 95.6% of Venezuelans eat three times a day, and we are muy robustos because we are eating too many carbs and fat. So, according to Maduro, we should simply consume lessbajarle dos, bajarle cuatro– to lower scarcity levels.

On the other hand, the Central Government claims that 40% of Venezuela’s food imports are sold by “smuggling mafias” in Colombia. The Central Government also claims that Venezuela imports between 45% and 55% of the food it consumes, while the private sector says the number ranges from 70% to 80%. In simpler words: we import most of our food and the Central Government says that we lose almost half to smugglers.

Due to fixed prices, we know the black markets are but a natural consequence. And as long as the price differential between formal markets and black market is maintained, there will always be incentives to continue the informal sale of basic products. Even the military and public officials are involved in smuggling. To reduce shortages (and inflation), it is essential to foster domestic production and, in the short and medium run, increase the efficiency of imports.

If we can’t walk because of a fractured knee, it would be rather silly to take a couple of acetaminophen to try and run a marathon (assuming that you could find acetaminophen in Venezuela, even though the Central Government promises to distribute 428,000 tablets for us close to 30 million Venezuelans).

So, when an economic model fails and produces shortages, it’s even sillier to think that eating less, the use of a biometric system to ration consumption or a so called #PlanContraElContrabando (a plan against smuggling) will solve anything. These measures are like prescribing acetaminophen to cure Venezuela’s fractured knee.

We are not sure if we can actually talk about a “plan” against smuggling. The Vice-presidency twitted this map that supposedly details “the three strategic lines” of the plan and… well… uhhhh… we’re not sure what to say about it.

The map left us a bit cold. Is the Brazilian border really not being watched? What about the Guyana border? And … were the borders really colored over with a crayon?

Some day, the government will run out of excuses for their own mismanagement … right?