Depending on which anonymous leaker you believe, the economy shrank something like 15 to 18% last year. According to the Caracas Chamber of Commerce, some 700 thousand jobs were lost in 2016. Sometimes it feels like we’re going into a new dark age.
Sources within Corpoelec tell us that electric consumption has shrunk by some 30% since 2013.
Just think of that, we’re using almost a third less power than when Chávez died. A staggering drop for a country outside the context of war. Though perhaps not such a surprise: the economy as a whole is 28% smaller than it was then — even as population continues to grow.
An economic involution on this scale doesn’t happen on its own. An economy doesn’t just seize up from one moment to the next. It takes real commitment to shitty decision-making, ineptitude and sheer socialist will to shatter a once decent place to live and work.
This stark reduction is a natural consequence of the economy slowly shutting down. It’s certainly not a response to market forces: the Venezuelan state still steeply subsidizes electricity, no matter how much they claim they want to reduce consumption. Venezuela is still the country where your electric bill is that last thing on your mind when you decide whether to crank up the A/C, turn on the TV, or leave the oven running.
If energy consumption collapsed due to closed shops and warehouses, El Niño and the so called “electric sabotage” —perfect 80’s glam rock tribute band name, by the way— the money spent on our constant, over-the-top save-power campaigns has been wasted.
The upside? Our old, ricketty, long-on-the-verge-of-collapse power grid is now able to easily sustain the loads being placed on it. Who needs more investment, when you can take the pressure off the overtaxed grid just by having a recession? Next time you run into an unemployed neighbor of yours, you might as well thank them for lighting your home.Caracas Chronicles is 100% reader-supported. Support independent Venezuelan journalism by making a donation.