“From impossible planning to permanent improvisation”

“Ahora todo es ‘¡Aprobado!’, ahora todo es autismo”. Fotos Contrapunto: Dagne Cobo

That title is not mine.

I wish I could claim it: it’s brilliant. But it belongs to Jorge Giordani. It’s what he meant to call a book he wanted to write about La Revolucion Apparatchik. We hear about it in a long Contrapunto interview with perhaps the second figure most responsible for the mess we’re in.

The interview is sprinkled with amazing nuggets. A few:

  1. The Alternative Bolivarian Plan. Here I must confess some envy: these folks had plans! As early as 1993, Giordani was wonking away, and he calculated that the Venezuelan social debt was of about $100 billion. That’s it. You pay 100 billion and Venezuela would then become a star-sparkling-awesome place. No poverty, no issues. And we would still get to keep the nice weather. Something I find interesting is that Chavez would tell him: “the debt isn’t 100 billion, it is 40 years”. I can hardly make something out of that.
  2. The income actually did total $1 trillion. But you know that, right? Here is something that will start giving you an eye twitch: $350 billion of that are unaccounted for. You know, “they fell through the cracks”. And Giordani seems to think that’s not that big a deal.
  3. The $350 billion figure isn’t actually the worst of it. Think of it this way: if $350 billion are unaccounted for, that means $650 billion were spent and accounted for. That’s almost worse! They spent, and kept track of, nearly seven times the amount of money they’d originally thought they’d need to make Venezuela a kind of tropical Switzerland. And what do we have show now? A second bridge over the Orinoco? Venezuela today has the same assets and the same poverty levels of 1998. And let me remind you that 1998 Venezuela went through the one of the worst economic crises. A decade of low oil prices. Somehow, with quite a different scenario, high oil prices and a decade of economic growth – we managed to end up in the exact same place.
  4. But Giordani is only the second in line to blame. And he makes sure that you blame number 1. Chavez himself. Why was Chavez so inept with these matters? According to Giordani  it was fear of losing. That, and his “generosity”. And Chavez got his way, every time.
  5. The biggest mistake.  To allow the parallel exchange rate. To decriminalize it.  To be fair he also saw the issuing of bonds to PDVSA as problematic. At least there we agree.
  6. The solution. Well, of course, more radicalization! Nationalize the finance sector and the international trade sector. Now that will work!

As for the book, he will write it, I personally look forward to reading it. A chavista version of Naím’s Paper Tigers and Minotaurs.

As much as we like to gloat and say “I told you so” and how wrong chavistas were, it is still concerning that any possible opposition-led government … won’t actually deliver a plan. Only improvisation through and through.

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  1. Given that Giordani praised the North Korean economy in the 1990s, and as you point out he has a lot of responsibility for the current mess, he is one of the worst persons alive to propose solutions.

    • Oh, I don’t know about that. Take into consideration everything he recommended for the economy has failed on an epic scale.

      Therefore follow the opposite of his “solutions”, or thereabouts, and you would likely find resounding success.

    • Exactly. And good improvisation requires some sort of preparation and expertise. Even MacGyver was a well-prepared scientific expert. Improvisation without preparation is just plain luck.

  2. “Something I find interesting is that Chavez would tell him: “the debt isn’t 100 billion, it is 40 years”. I can hardly make something out of that”.

    The defunct son-of-a-whore probably meant ad/copey’s 40 years, which left other debts than just 100B. In that sense, he was correct: they didn’t educate millions of pueblo-people like himself, he was their Frankenstein along with many others.

  3. The man is delusional. Seriously. As in medication is indicated.

    It reminds me of a quote, “People tend to wed their ideas more faithfully than their spouses.”

  4. Fuck this guy and fuck his deranged Marxist economics. I know pre-1998 Venezuela wasn’t exactly Switzerland, but Giordani was the chief architect behind the death spiral that is turning the country into a hellhole.

  5. In defense of this despicable, decrepit and deranged “monk”, an old freaking Dominican Engineer.. a laughable “socialist” lunatic playing politics and rear-view mirror Economics…. he was probably one of the extremely rare, few bastards who has not stolen massive amounts during Chavismo.

    A modest, true communist Fool, at least, who seems to practice what he preaches, unlike 99.9% of today’s disguised “socialists”, deviant political hypocrites and mega-thieves.

    • In a way, he is worse. The rational thief wants to go on stealing, so he will make sure that his victims remain productive. What the Monk did was to break the system so badly that no one will getting anything out of it.

  6. I always thought Giordani’s grand economic strategy could be boiled down to:
    Step 1: Centralized Planning.
    Step 2: ?????
    Step 3: Socialist Utopia.

    Every time the monk opens his mouth about the economic mechanics behind their bolivarian revolution, there is always this nebulous cloud of uncertainty over the operative details, the entire thing was supposedly run by the sheer inertia of rethoric and good old “patria” slogans. What amazes me is that he somehow never saw a problem with this lack of concrete planning in his memoirs. Worse of all, going by his good bye letter, he was well aware of the economic damage that pouring the entirety of the Venezuelan Economy to re-elect the Supreme Intergalactic Corpse would have in the long run.

    In a twist of sick irony, the tapestry of disaster that is the whole body of “chavista economic policy”, the one whose followers are so ideologically sensitive towards, is acknowledged by its architect as a cheap ruse of populist opportunism to gain votes, nothing more. Yet he never ironed out an actual guide map, as doomed to failure as it was probably going to be, to somehow lead the country into prosperity.

    In a way, and Giordani’s unintentionally confirms it, the regime screwed the venezuelan economy in order to build enough political capital for the grand national transformation, and get rich in the process, and never delivered a slight payoff for all that sacrifice. As the post beautifully describes, there absolutely nothing worthwhile to show after the largest and longest oil boom in our history. Talking about a lost decade, we didn’t even go beyond the planning phase. Now that’s has to be a monument to incompetence, criminally destructive incompetence.

  7. The great probems with great planners and specialy with utopian planners is that they always feel that implementation is sort of magic and automatic , something which happens by itself simply from being enthusiastic and pasionate about certain ideals , that people with the right passions are made omnicompetent by their ideals . they are blind to how difficult it is for people to make things happen jus as one plans them , they dismiss the operative specifically functional aspect of their plans implementation , the haphazard contingent unpredictable implications and factors that distort and plague any planned human endevour.

    Remember years ago after hearing a professional planeer explain the national plans and how wonderfully they met every standard answer my query , ‘they may be perfect but clearly they dont they work ….’ with the phrase ‘that s not a planning problem thats an execution problem’ as if dismissing the whole subject of its execution as irrelevant . I am very suspect of plans which are too complete , too all knowing, too confident , beause they are usually the most vulnerable !! I prefer plans which are flexible and sketchy , that are full of plan B’s and alternatives, that allow a margin for adapting to unexpected circumstances and improvisations .

    I ve been in many many projects , and always there is a point where they have to be remade and refashioned because as you advance in their prosecution unexpected things turn out that require remedy and modification . By all means lets have a plan , but then keep in mind all that could go wrong with it and be ready to change is as needed and convenient ,

  8. This guy’s cynisicm has to be recorded for posterity; seriously, this bastard has to enter history with every failure and screwup and every defense of said bullshit so people remembers forever about what he did to Venezuela.

  9. The greatest flaw of visionary planners is hubris , lacking a sense of the limits of what men can accomplish in the natural course and a blindness to the disasters that can follow when those limits are blatantly ignored . Giordanis plans where goaded on by a man wrapted up in his own grandly narcicistic self delusional sense of destiny. Chavez , The saviour , the redeemer , the unconquerable great supermannish leader who would achieve the salvation of mankind never mind the obstacles that reality put in his way. A man who commanded his followers blind obedience even if they personally might have had some reservations as to where he was talking them .

    • As I comment below, I think the greatest problem of this bunch of fools is not what you mention (which are, in fact, serious problems), but the most fundamental one of not being able to understand the basics of any rational way to do things – have a mind open to find out what results you get and be able to rethink your positions if results dont match your expectations.

      They just have one idea, and whatever happens, its always the same idea, and if it doesnt work, then lets try again.

      • In other words their utopian delusions blind them to reality which they see not only distortedly but as something absolutely pliable to their dreams.
        This blindness renders them also delusional in that where they fail in their efforts they have to fantasize causes to their failure that leave their dreams intact , they can never know error because the blow to their ideologicaly ballooned egoes can not be borne . They cannot learn from their failures because emotionally they cannot deal with any failure , because theyve invested everything in being always the embodiments of infabillity so as to maintain their pride inflamed to bursting point.

        By the way this can also happen at the other end of the ideological divide !!

  10. Its kind of telling that all the failures he diagnoses get in his view the same solutions he implemented to… get to the current mess.

    I mean, just look around. Goverments with a left bent on the neighbourghood are doing much better than Venezuela, and none of them have followed any of those plans. Yep, they have problems and the risk of them going into stupid mode is there, but for God’s sake, BOLIVIA is growing. So for crying out loud, do you need any more evidence to see that your idiotic reliance on controls and heavy handed interference into business is counterproductive?

  11. Biggest issue for me is that many people still believe that “el pueblo” is better off because of what they did accomplish: Supposedly awareness of the poor, recognition of racial and social differences as well as historical social class oppression, dubious achievements in massification of education and access to health care. The aforementioned, seem to simply offset and outweigh any errors, regardless of the destruction and waste left behind.

    Ideology trumps everything, Chavez made sure of that. The discourse that the opposition is there to take it all away, whatever it is, is latent and alive. Until we can find ways to logically tell people that we can keep the “good” and only get rid of the crazy mumbo jumbo that ppl like Giordani have implemented making us all better off the opposition has no chance

  12. You are all probably tired of reading references to the Third Reich, but I can’t help myself. When the sixth army was being annihilated at Stalingrad, Hitler’s attitude was that his plan was perfect, and if the army couldn’t make it work, then they deserved their fate. No one dared to argue.

  13. Not only the last 15 years had been run by delusional and mad men like these, but in no small measure, most figureheads and leaders in most public offices are just that figure heads of cuban handlers-behind-the-scenes.
    the cubans have run the country as a colony, with a maximization of rent mandate, and once they are done sucking it dry they will move to other things (wait, support for Guyana, opening up with Us, Colombia peace talks!…. They are already moving on.

  14. Actually, Venezuela’s current state of affairs is probably in no way attributable to people like Giordanni. If Chavez had done that he proposed, the country would likely look more like an Eastern European socialist republic, and less like whatever the hell it is now. That’s not to say it’s something to aspire to! But it is certainly a different destiny altogether.


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