Cadivi: Spreadsheet Wrecker

Have you ever tried to explain Cadivi to a busy editor rushing to beat a deadline?


“Look, I’m on a deadline here, please just…just make it easy for me…what’s the number?”

I can hear the tension on the other end of the line. Frustration, too. It’s 2008, and I’m trying to make ends meet by doing some freelance work for a major global consultancy firm. I’m walking on egg-shells, I know that. It’s only my second month and already they suspect I’m completely incompetent.

“Listen, honestly, it’s not like I’m trying to be difficult on purpose here. It’s just that you’re asking me a question that doesn’t have a simple answer…”

This does not go down well.

“How can that even…I mean…are you listening to yourself? I’m not asking you for a disquisition on the nature of beauty, pal. This isn’t some open ended essay question…I have a spreadsheet open right now with 192 countries in it and for every single one I have one number, one number, for the debt-to-GDP ratio. It’s not rocket science! I don’t have a paragraph field for each country. I have one fucking cell on an excel spreadsheet, so pretty please, what’s the goddamn number for Venezuela?”

Now I’m the one who’s annoyed.

“No! NO! Now you listen to yourself! Debt-to-GDP, you said? Right? It’s a ratio, coño, a R-A-T-I-O. And the denominator in that ratio, the to-GDP part, nobody knows what it really is, you dig? Because it’s in local currency, in bolivars, and there isn’t one dollar price for the bolivar, there are three!”

Now he’s screaming into the phone.

“We’ve been over this, for fuck’s sake: there can’t be more than one price for a currency, that…that…that doesn’t even make any sense! Maybe the news didn’t reach that pissant shithole where you live but there’s a little something called the law of one price, dickhead: what you’re telling me isn’t just stupid…it’s isn’t just stupid and insane, it’s stupid and insane and impossible…

He takes a second to compose himself.

“OK, damnit, look, I’m sorry. It’s just…I have to close this in 45 minutes and I still don’t have numbers from Cambodia, the Philippines or you lot. Look, I don’t have time for this. Just…what does the government say the debt-to-GDP is?”

“Ummm, that hasn’t been published this quarter yet…”



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  1. Priceless…

    I have tried to explain Venezuelan economics to my friends and family abroad. They don’t get it, and since they don’t have to, they usually get frustrated and change the subject.

  2. Excellent, I’m laughing alone at my desk after reading this….

    I may use this to illustrate the situation to my colleagues here who seem to believe that I’m exaggerating the whole cadivi issue (now worse than in 2008)

    They don’t have a clue how it works (does it anyone?

    • No, no, c’mon, I’m writing from memory, and this was 8 years ago. I’m sure I’m embellishing. It’s not like I recorded it!

  3. Trying to explain that to a Canadian …. Impossible.
    Trying to explain that to Russians …. they get it right away!!!.

    We were having lunch together, they asked me how the situation was, what was the inflation,etc. then they asked me “what is the exchange rate?” … and I went “well, it depends”…. and right away they laugh and told me “depends on the real and the black market numbers, right?”.


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