Yesterday, Aristóbulo announced the most jaw-dropping, Chigüire-worthy energy-saving measure yet: the work week for the public sector will be reduced to two days. With the exception of staff performing “those tasks that are fundamental and necessary”, the vicepresident said, public workers will only work Monday and Tuesday. What constitutes a “fundamental and necessary task”, sabrá Dios.

On top of that, children will have no school on Fridays. Apparently education is not “fundamental or necessary” enough.

Three things here: first, home consumption accounts for over 50% of the country’s total electricity demand, meaning that home (the place where, um, people tend to hang out at when they’re not working) is where most electricity is consumed. Second, the State is by far the largest employer in Venezuela; there are over three million public workers in the country. Third, the Vice-president for the electric sector, Freddy Brito, publicly recognized that extending the Semana Santa holiday “did not have the expected impact”.

Long story short: they’re sending three million people to the place they consume the most electricity, as part of a plan to reduce electricity consumption, after they already told us they know doesn’t work.

At first glance, the measure makes absolutely no sense.

Unless it’s not really saving electricity they’re after. As Eugenio Martínez quickly pointed out, reducing the number of workdays in a week has a direct knock-on effect on the electoral calendar. CNE counts the days for many of its recall-related procedures in días hábiles. Think of it as public administration time, which is sort of like dog years, only not as cuddly.

The lapses for collecting and validating signatures, the allotted time to call for a referendum, etc., are calculated on the basis of public sector workdays. If, say, putting off a recall referendum until January 11, 2017, happened to be your top political priority at the moment, magically eliminating public sector workdays is a feature, not a bug.

How much damage is the government willing to inflict upon the people (and upon itself) in order to weaken the opposition’s recall plans?

It’s not even about how the country’s virtual paralysis will affect the already terminal economy; it’s about how the citizens will hurt. How many private businesses depend on the crowds that gather around ministries and other government buildings daily? How much more will workers have to spend on the meal they’ll now eat at home, instead of eating in workplace cafeterias? How long will it take to get a document legalized? Who will take care of the children whose parents are not public workers on Fridays?

All of which is to ask, really, how much longer can a society put up with a government this irresponsible before it falls apart completely?

39 COMMENTS

  1. Clearly, if a public employee can get a weeks worth of work into two days, then Maduro is on to something!
    .
    But wait… they are doing LESS WORK… and getting paid to NOT WORK?
    .
    How does this make any sense, unless the point is to do something “symbolic”? (yet nonsensical) It shows that the Maduro government is fundamentally out of touch with the logic and reason behind simple economics and the value of labor.
    .
    This is vote buying, plain and simple.

    • Couple of questions here: Whose votes are they buying, exactly? This benefits nobody, not those who are working two half days a week. What are them buying them for? Not the regional elections, surely… The presidentials, then. Is it possible to even imagine them keeping this up until 2019?

      The best offense is a good defense, they say. This is not vote buying. Its vote preventing.

      • I am not in touch with the situation in Venezuela the way my wife is (expat), but allowing the vast public sector more time away from work while paying them the same wages is a sure fire way to win their hearts and minds.
        .
        I’m not privy to how expansive the public sector is in Venezuela, but my impression is that since Chavez, that sector has grown significantly? Are his motorcycle riding, paramilitary “enforcers” still getting their cut? Is the military included in this new-found benevolence for days away from productivity at the expense of the taxpayer?
        .
        That is what what I meant by vote buying. These people working less and getting paid the same. Surely they don’t want to see that gravy train end?

        • That would assume that they’re getting paid enough to live decently, which they aren’t. Most public employees aren’t doing much better than their civilian peers, unless they happen to be part of the cliques that receive additional perks.

          A five day weekend is worth little if you can’t afford to enjoy it due to a lack of money. What’s worse, without even the pretense of work, these people will likely just spend more time queuing and facing the reality that their money isn’t enough for nearly anything.

          Others will likely just seek additional informal work to fill in these days and round up their salaries, but in the end the result it’s the same. They may have more days off, but they sure as hell aren’t vacations.

          • Thank you for the insight.
            Again, I don’t know Venezuela the way my wife does, but I know bureaucracy. And low level bureaucrats will do whatever it takes to keep their bread buttered. (I am thinking specifically of the passport control frauds at Maiquetía Simón Bolívar who robbed us of our luggage and cash.)

  2. I honestly believe that the political damage this measure will bring to the government will exceed by far the benefits they hope to reap. There is just something about giving three million people three more days to wait in line for food at supermarkets and clearing the way for more people to experience the day to day Venezuelans. Certainly this can very easily lead to a state of civil unrest which will be very difficult to come back from without having strong popular support on your side which Maduro knows he does not have. Thisis a very risky move we shall wait and see how it plays out.

  3. Every public employee should be put on a stationary bicycle fixed with a generator to help power the country.

  4. Didn’t they already reduce the workday to 5 hours? Is this still in effect? Does this mean that they are actually only working for 10 hours out of a “normal” 40 hour work week?

    Secondly, I would note that the vast majority of the public sector workers are working at all the various nationalized industries, many of which are idled in any case, such as Sidor, VenAlum, etc. So, for many of the 3 million plus workers, they are paying them to stay home and do nothing instead of coming to work to do nothing.

    Still, anyway you analyze this, it doesn’t add up to anything rational. Since they are being paid anyway, they could at least clean the streets!

  5. The answer to the question you pose at the end is “probably longer than you’d expect, and certainly longer than you’d wish for”. :/

  6. When are people going to start publicaly recognizing that the reason Polar can’t get $ for imports is because they refuse to kick back 30-40% to the Crooks in charge of exchange control!

  7. An old man who lived through the last days of the old USSR told me that the communist system was simple. It worked like this: “We pretended to work, and the State pretended to pay us.”

  8. I just finished read many articles on Venezuela that highlight current disasters. PDVSA production is dropping dramatically, Printers threating to stop printing currency due to lack of payment. Gold Reserves down to approximately 7 billion with 6+ billion in Debt Payments due this year, No food, lack of electricity, lack of water, no medical supplies, inflation at 500% and climbing (1000% projected for 2017), and now a 2 day work week. They seem to owe everyone on the planet for services and have not paid. They are being sued by just about everyone for lack of payment or confiscation of private property

    MUD appears to be playing “Nice” and trying to follow a political process to begin to resolve a situation that seems to have gone far beyond any potential for a political situation.

    The Chavista’s have no idea how to fix any of it and truly believe that the Imperialist have caused all of the issues. At this point they look to be mentally unstable…..

    Educated middle class Venezuelan’s with the ability to leave have either have left or have plans to leave depriving the country of the skills and future leadership required to rebuild the country

    I feel a great deal of personal pain as 30 years ago when things were much better, I married into a Venezuelan family. Many of my wives’s extended family that could have either left the country or have contingency plans to leave. They have spread out all over the world and started ne lives elsewhere. They are not likely to return.

    A TWO DAY work week for public employees doesn’t solve anything! It is just like spitting into the wind on a very windy day.

    The only people that seem to be benefiting from the country are the Columbia Drug Lords.

    Basically, Venezuela is a total F****g disaster! As a country it is nearly if not already DOA.

    Unfortunately, I just don’t see a solution short of military takeover or external intervention that is going to help the country.

  9. As the article says its simply a ploy to allow the CNE to delay the revocatorio process (already ridiculously cumbersome and time consuming) so much that the term granted by the constitution to carry it thru runs out and there is no revocatorio (using the electicity crisis as an excuse) . If signatures have to be validated and you take 3 days out of every work week then your are more than doubling the time required for the process to advance ……no one is fooled , every one with two inches of head can understand why they are doing it ……..the intent is flagrantly fraudulent, with every single venezuelan a victim.

    Later is there is total break down in the supply of electricity they will say that such break down makes having the revocatorio impossible …….

    • I see the argument for this being the reason, but I am not buying it. This seems too self-destructive. They have other ways of delaying the revocatorio. I think that there is something more behind this.

    • “As the article says its simply a ploy to allow the CNE to delay the revocatorio process (already ridiculously cumbersome and time consuming)…”

      Has there have been ANY chavista policy that’s not ridiculously cumbersome, time-sucking and I should add completely destructive?

      It’s been that way since 2002, what was Chávez’s plan to stop a protest claiming for his resignation? SHOOT THEM, SHOOT THEM ALL DEAD with his hired murderers.

  10. Well, taking their logic one step further, a zero hour work week should save even more electricity! Why not consider having public employees bucket water from all the swimming pools in Caracas, at least those that still have water, and haul them to the Guri dam?

  11. “At first glance, the measure makes absolutely no sense”. At a second glance it doesn’t either. Even at third glance it makes no sense! If the work of government employees is not fundamental and necessary, why are we even paying them in the first place.

  12. Cristina is mostly correct, except she fails to call a spade a spade. It’s, as usual, all about staying in power, Enchufaos, and massive Corruption. Votes? They’ll buy’em a bit later. PDVSA will. And Millions of “pueblo people”, in the world-record 35 Ministerios, will gladly oblige.

    “All of which is to ask, really, how much longer can a society put up with a government this irresponsible before it falls apart completely?”

    It’s not “irresponsible: it’s Criminal. It’s not “ineptitude”, it’s calculated THEFT plans. As the “controles de cambio, as “presio jujto” as everything else: Tools to stay in power and steal as much as possible, as fast as possible.

    And they are quite adept, and responsible at it. Hope people get that one day.

  13. I’m in Zurich right now having just hooked up with a family member from CCS and first thing we did was go to a mercado and you should have seen him eat and drink an entire gallon of milk. I have another family member who’s a doctor (only 26) and he has to make daily decisions about who will live and who will die owing to the lack of medicine. “Playing God,” they call it, and it is traumatising the shit out of people. Behind the scenes in Venezuela is getting very ugly and primitive. Something is sure to blow up eventually. What a shame and a disaster. The smartest people on the planet can barely keep a health country running these days. An executive branch filled with bus drivers and gafos claiming there is no such thing as inflation gets you present day Ven. And if Guri goes down, all bets are off…

  14. It is interesting how tenacious the Chavistas are. Why cling to a rotting corps? What would the Chavistas do out of power? Where would they get the money to seek power again. The communists in Russia learned how to survive when they lost powe. Why cant the Chavistas cash in their chips and control private businesses in a new Venezuela? My totally irresponsible guess is that the financial rewards of control are too enormous to give up. The profit margins of a criminal enterprise exceed those of a successful business. Greed trumps politics and reason.

  15. The government is desperate to create social unrest so they could unleash the GNB and the military on as many unarmed protesters as possible to: (1) show who is boss, and (2) to declare a estado de excepcion.

    Why do they want that: (1) many people will FINALLY get the hell out of dodge, and (2) they will not be able to proceeed with the referendum because “las condiciones no estan dadas”.

    If you think that Maduro and the government are not pushing all the buttoms for Venezuelans to finally and mercifully EXPLODE, then you are not paying attention.

  16. You claim that residential comsumption makes for more than 50% of the demand.

    Well, I’ve got some news for you, pal.

    When people are trying to “enjoy their vacations” at home, they’ll get blackouted, hard.

    As for like 3,5 to 4 hours, DAILY.

    Because in your home, no one’ll know or care that you’re spitting vitriol because your latest appliance just got fried. But do so while people are in their workplace, and then lots of gathered folks see the glorious effect of the “planned” blackouts.

    • I dont think there’s reason to believe that’ll happen in Caracas. The threat to blackout the capital lasted about 18h before they chickened out. At least Chávez actually enforced it for a day before he called backsies. Anyway, Caracas hosts more government organism than the rest of the country combined. So the point stands.

      • Daddy-of-choro minister said that Caracas wouldn’t be subjected to blackouts, FOR NOW, with the warning that “if he ever considers that the east is consuming too much power for his liking, then flick, all off.”

        Also, in monday there were several outages spread among Caracas, chickened out or not.

        In any case, the “go home so we can turn off the lights there” strategy is along the usual trolling methods chavismo has used since its beginning.

  17. Great article. I wish you actually answered the question on the title. I wonder what’s the opposition’s plan to deal with the tumorous bureaucracy that we have (if there is any plan at all).

    • Thank you for your comment, Rodrigo. If I ever find a satisfactory answer, I promise I’ll write about it, but I’m not holding my breath…. Sadly the most likely answer is “Well, not really. The only thing we actually need is to keep them in government payroll, most of them are fundametally UN-necessary”

  18. Thank for your comment, Rodrigo. I promise if I ever find a satisfactory answer, I’ll write about it… but I’m not holding my breath. Sadly, the most likely answer is “Well, not really, what we actually need is to keep them on government payroll. Most of them are actually fundamentally UNnecessary”.

  19. “”fundamental and necessary task,” God will know”, “after they already told us they do not know work.”? Really?. I am not politically inclined to any side, this government is a disaster, on the other hand the opposition has proven to be as inefficient as the government. But we are many senior professionals who work hard to “repair” the consequences of bad decisions in the top government. I do not usually respond in forums and less on something qualified as “publication” in a professional network and encounter with few paragraphs that shows, despite a great truth, but with many generalities. In my experience … we can do a great study, but if we speak with generalities, we send our own study to the pipe.

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