A few weeks ago, Anabella and I were looking through some long-forgotten bits of Venezuela’s 1999 Constitution: the bits on public sector financial management.
“Bercia, chama,” I said, “have you looked at Article 315 lately!? It reads like a García Banchs OpEd!”
“De pana,” she shot back. “But not just that one…that whole section of the constitution reads like a CEDICE pamphlet now: Central Bank autonomy, inflation targetting, primary fiscal balance over the business cycle, I mean, cripes, even the mandate that the President has to submit the budget to the Asamblea for approval!”
“Sí, sí, es que es todo,” I said, “every sentence there reads like counterrevolutionary propaganda now…”
Right then, an idea was born.
“We should totally do it,” she said.
“Write it up,” she said, getting impatient. “Just literally gloss the constitution’s Articles 311-321 as though they were a call for radical reform and run it. I bet nobody would spot it.”
And so…that’s exactly what we did.
Every single point in our “Seven Point Plan for Prosperity” is already in the constitution.
Y’know, the one that’s theoretically in force now. Obvs, none of them are followed ni nada que se le parezca. But our call for radical neoliberal reform? It’s all cribbed straight out of Chávez’s constitution.
And Anabella was right. Nobody spotted it.
There’s a lesson here beyond the nerdy in-joke. It’s not even about the way it lays bare our galloping ignorance of what the constitution actually says. Instead, it’s a hopeful lesson about the future.
We sometimes fret that the legal basis for proper governance will be terribly difficult to establish after transition. But that’s BS. At least in terms of a sane framework for public sector financial management, there’s absolutely zero need to amend or reform the constitution. Instead we need a far more radical reform, the kind that’s never been seriously tried before. We need to do what the damn constitution says. That’s all.