Remember the Electric Crisis?

When the lights were off, we were serious about reforming Venezuela's sclerotic, catastrophically underperforming electric sector. Then it rained in Guayana, and we forgot all about it.

Remember the electric crisis?

It’s hard to, right? It seems like forever ago. Two months. An eternity.

What happened? Well, through the ingenuity and wit of Corpoelec’s crack team of engineers and technicians, the underlying problems were finally addressed. A far-reaching structural reform plan was put in motion to allow them to act nimbly, and decades of delayed maintenance were performed through a coordinated national effort. Major resources were devoted to finding a lasting solution to the problem, investments were fast-tracked, equipment was upgraded, the policy framework entirely re-invented…

No, of course none of that happened.

It rained. That’s what happened.

Water fell from the sky over Guayana, and it washed away our electric problems.

Until the next dry season, of course.

Before the rains started, Corpoelec wasn’t doing the bare-bones minimum maintenance the hydroelectric plants need, and now that the rains started it’s still not doing it. Before the rains, electric rates were ridiculously low, and they still are. Before it rained, the policy-making apparatus around Corpoelec couldn’t plan its way out of a wet paper bag, it still can’t. Nothing’s changed. It just rained.

But even amid this bleak scenario, even with the reservoir levels still below historic values, even with most of the thermoelectric generation capacity offline, Minister Motta Dominguez can come forth and say: ”Problem solved”.

As the equipment continues to decay, Corpoelec is going through a labor crisis. A union strike was called on July 6th. Next year’s electric generation forecast looks grim.

The story of Corpoelec is the story of policymaking in our country. When something bad happens, our first instinct is to just wait it out. It’s Maduro’s first response to everything. We still subsidize gas to absurd levels, even though everyone —even Maduro— knows it’s socially regressive, environmentally ruinous and financially unsustainable. We continue to over-value the Bolivar hindering trade, making ourselves uncompetitive and sustaining corruption. Not even the people whose job it is to implement them believe in these policies.

So what are we waiting for? Rain, of course. We’re waiting for oil prices to go up. We’re waiting for something to happen to magically relieve the pressure. As soon as it does, we’ll be happy to go back to of our old ways, living large and enjoying that cheap forex.

And Venezuela will become Eloise’s convent inhabited by those of spotless minds (although none a blameless vestal). And praying for rain, our only recourse.

“How happy is the blameless vestal’s lot!

The world forgetting, by the world forgot.

Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind!

Each pray’r accepted, and each wish resign’d”

-Alexander Pope. Eloise to Abelard