Venezuela’s GDP Gross Domestic Product has been an official mystery since December 2015. Requests for official data are ignored or blocked by the Supreme Tribunal, and though the IMF executive board showed Venezuela a Yellow Card on Transparency, we’re not quite sure when we’ll be seeing updated data on the BCV and INE websites.

Well, guess what? Waiting for the GDP data might be a thing of the past.

The Finance Committee of the National Assembly just surprised us with an unprecedented initiative: they’ll now calculate both the “Consumer Price Index of the National Assembly” and the “Monthly Economic Activity Indicator of the National Assembly”.

This is not a GDP indicator per se, but a “coincident indicator” of the economic cycle, providing hints on the behavior of GDP.

The idea is to create a proxy barometer from the publicly available data: the number of active oil rigs (published by Baker-Hughes), PDVSA’s oil production volume (published by OPEC), vehicle sales (published by CAVENEZ), deposits in public institutions (according to the BCV balance sheet), the total credit portfolio (published by SUDEBAN), deposits from the public (published by SUDEBAN), collection of value added tax (IVA, published by SENIAT), and many other charts.

There’s some precedent for this approach; the Central Bank measures a Monthly Economic Activity Indicator for 75% of the activities that compose the GDP. It’s just that surprise, surprise! it doesn’t publish it.

Here are the main results for 2017:

Venezuela has been in recession for 15 quarters straight. Economic activity shrank by 12% in the first nine months of 2017, and has contracted 24.5% between 2012 and september 2017. In per capita terms, it’s even worse, since we keep having babies.

Indicador de Actividad Económica de la Asamblea Nacional (IAEMAN) by Caracas Chronicles on Scribd

This data series has drawbacks, starting with the fact that it has to be estimated using available data that might already be adulterated. It’s not a proper replacement for what should be; the BCV and INE should do their damn jobs and publish the statistics they compile, like the Constitution orders them to. This is just a resuelve.

But in the face of official silence, work-arounds like this become the rule and not the exception. Get ready for more.

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  1. And the Russian have problems of their own, while Venezuela has nothing to offer to them. The US has made it clear that they cannot takeover the US refineries.

    Then there is the new demand by Jorgito that the oppo must have the banking sanctions lifted!

    They are hurting bad for money.

  2. The Chavistas are entering negotiations not to negotiate, but to demand that MUD helps them get US sanctions lifted in return for political favors they will never deliver. Otherwise MUD, and the “negotiations” are
    useless to them. MUD’s trump card is to demand that their conditions be met BEFORE they collectively ask Washington and Europe to lift sanctions. The Chavistas can say no, and probably will, but they are bankrupt and have no place to turn and no way to change course.

    Obviously something has to give, but I doubt it will be the Chavistas, nor yet the sanctions. Doesn’t seem any way to avoid melt down since the Chavistas won’t quit unless they implode.

    • I’m not sure Trump would agree to lift any sanctions even if the “opposition” asks them to. He may if Rubio asks – since what matters is winning Florida again. That’s my take, anyway.

    • The US is often criticized for being slow to act, or not even show up. But when they do, it usually is going to stick. These snactions, which are mostly against regime officials wil not be lifted until the same officials are gone, IMO.

    • If the MUD agrees to anything without having ALL of their conditions met in advance then maybe they are as worthless as some people say they are.

  3. Juan, thanks for the link, that is big news. I should not need to be asking this but are they crazy enough to “rent” out bases to the Russians. That may be the quickest way to make US intervention more likely. Not just in the Western Hemisphere but just a stones throw from the canal.

  4. If the MUD asks the US, Canada, and Europe to lift sanctions, I hope every single one of them is added to the sanctions list. The sanctions should be listed after the regime falls and there’s a new government in place.

    Things are really winding down here. Almost nothing in the form of products for people to buy, less and less cash in the streets, and one can just feel that what’s coming is going to be very ugly.

      • Again, what’s the difference? The NGO was using extra official reports and filling the blanks with math models, they weren’t “vieja-del-cafetal-ing” the numbers, because when estimates tread on uncertain terrain they might end hilariously wrong in some cases.

        The AN is basically doing the same, picking the pieces of extra official information it can and filling the gaps.

  5. MRubio I always enjoy your commentary because I can get it nowhere else. I have immediate family in CCS but hearing how things are “winding down” outside the capitol probably paints a more realistic picture of where the nation is at. Where do you think this can possibly go now that the Chavistas are broke and refuse to step aside?

  6. Juan Largo, it’s interesting how all of this is playing out.

    My extended Venezuelan family lives in two major cities here in the east and the step-son on the far side of the country in Tachira near the Colombian border so I get to gather information from all over the country as these kids call their mother daily.

    Here in this very rural area, we’re still close enough to where some food is produced that with a bit of effort one can find beef, occassionally chicken, and some vegetables. I got a call from a shop owner today that a few chickens had arrived so I headed over here quickly. Cost: 133,000 bs…..47,000 bs to the kilo. Beef, when you can find it, is at 55,000 bs per kilo.

    When I was buying the chicken, I noted a full sack of onions on the floor of the shop (they also sell produce). I guess the owner saw me eyeing it because before I could ask he said, “tres mil bolivares”. I thought at first he meant 300,000 bs but then realized, he meant 3 million bs! Three million bs for a sack of onions. It’s just astounding how fast prices are going up.

    The local Chinese market is bare and the poor owner looks like he’s going to have a stroke. He’s got nothing to sell and nothing is coming in. The pepsi and coca-cola plants have no product because there’s no sugar to make the drinks. Canned sardines are no longer available. We had canned tuna here for a long while because that’s all we could find. Few buy tuna because of the cost, especially when they can find sardines. Now most of our tuna is gone because there’s nothing else to eat. I haven’t seen milk in liquid form in almost a year and even the powdered stuff is gold.

    We have a local producer-supplier of casabe, but no longer sell the torta in a plastic bag because they have all but disappeared. Those plastic bags that are available often cost more than the product you’re selling. Same for plastic cups,,,disappeared. Same for light bulbs. One by one products are disappearing from the market. Part of it has to do with the traditional end-of-the-year wind down, but I’m seeing things on a scale this year I’ve never seen before.

    Tires and spare parts for transport vehicles are either almost impossible to find or so costly that the owners can no longer turn a profit. When our lifeline to the outside via transport dries up, and I think that’s a big part of what’s going on today, we’re going to be in a world of hurt.

    If interested, I’ll definitely keep you guys posted on events unfolding here in my small part of the world.

    • The reason that plastic bags and other products are not as available as before is that the subsidy that Pequiven used last year to prop up the price of raw materials, such as polyethylene and polypropylene, is gone.

      Venezuela has gone from producing, and exporting both, to having to import both. The plants at El Tablazo in Zulia have been idled for quite some time leading to this situation.

      Currently plastics manufacturers are forced to take whatever Pequiven gets its hands on and doles out on a whim, or runs tremendous risks importing raw materials and using intermediaries to enable the purchases to be invoiced in bolívares. Invoicing in dollars forces them to account for the purchases as if they had received $$ at the official rate but as we all know that is practically as available as pink unicorns.

      Supposedly there are 8 ships offshore carrying gas to feed El Tablazo to prime the pump as it were, yet not one will deliver until the cargo is paid for. Even if they docked and delivered, the feedstock will not be enough to sustain the process as there are no continuing shipments in sight.

      Of the roughly 880 plastics manufacturers that are still around,
      perhaps a quarter of those have some raw material left with no way to know whether that inventory will ever be replaced and if so, at what price.

      Given that plastic packaging is part of the food chain, producers are under pressure from the government to hold prices to levels that cause little impact on the final price of food, and exposing them to audits that can have very negative consequences for them.

      Next year looks much worse.

      • Thanks for the excellent explanation RN. I figured it had mostly to do with the refineries operating at such low levels but it’s obviously much more complex than that.

        My woman has managed to find a number of packages of the smaller bags and though we have clients daily asking if we have bags for sale, we don’t sell them. Obviously, we can’t sell maiz trillado without a bag. I don’t know what the meat vendors will do when there are no bags. Imagine selling a kilo of ground meat without the bag. LOL

        Only in the People’s Socialist Paradise of Venezuela.

        • What will happen is this.

          1) Pequiven will import just enough PE (polyethylene) and PP (polypropylene) to supply certain manufacturers so that products destined to be sold in Bicentenarios and other channels controlled by the government can get packaged.

          2) some priority is to be given to PVC for piping. It is believed this is for government housing units, which likely won’t get built and the pipes end up you know where.

          3) the pharmacy sector gets zilch, packaging wise

          4) Manufacturers that do take from Pequiven will be required to sell the packaging at a price set by the government, whether it is profitable or not. They will also be audited on their entire production, not just on the production runs using Pequiven imported materials.

          5) Those that choose not to accept the Pequiven materials will fall off the quota system in place now, in essence going to the back of the line in the future.

          6) Factories that stop will be open to takeovers by the workers for stopping production, even if they can show they did not receive materials to continue producing.

          A veritable catch 22

    • “If interested, I’ll definitely keep you guys posted on events unfolding here in my small part of the world.”

      Absolutely interested, MRubio. The best insight is from guys like you, doers, with skin in the game, as opposed to the heavy-thinkers and big-talkers.

      And the fact that you have a clear and proper understanding of US politics adds immensely to your credibility.

    • MRubio

      Yes, please keep posting updates if you can. My wive’s family (the few that haven’t left) lives in Tachira, near Rio Chiquito. The stories they tell are crazy.

  7. Please do, MRubiosote. Shocking to hear such ground level dope. Sounds like once “whatever’s left” is gone, it’s all gone. Man, that’s intense and you’re a bigger man than I am to hang in there, though family is worth anything. But can you speak a little more on the transport crisis? Are people going to get stranded when the grub runs out (and every other item you mentioned needed to avoid just camping in the jungle and eating bugs). Does any branch of government have any kind of plan for emergency relief?

    • Yeah, MRubio, boots on the ground. Great stuff!! I am a self-hating Venezulan who threw in the towel after la constituyente si va. Just building a bunker now and waiting for the worst and just trying to fly under the radar.

      Ditto on everything MRubio said. On Margarita Island there is no cooking gas because only 4 of 23 gas delivery trucks are functional. I have personal phone number of a driver. I pay more than tripple per gas tank and I give a huge tip. I am top of the pecking order, yet when I call now, I am always left with the usual response: “mañana”…which means “I dont fucking know, whenever the truck is fixed”. This time I had to go and wait in line at gas company for hours after giving up hope gas guys would come through and production had stopped at restaurant because of no gas.

      Now the “no hay” cigarettes, that one will be really interesting. The worst colas (people standing in lines) during the Soviet Union were for cigarettes. Just imagine 50-100 nicotine addicts standing in line for hours in the hot Venezuelan sun in front of a bodegon for hours to get their beloved smokes.
      If a line of mothers holding their babies and waiting for diapers gets rowdy, just imagine what it will be like for cigarettes.

      On another note, there is a restaurant next to my local. It is a really nice restaurant who threw away their 5 star trash in an empty lot next to my local. Once they started doing this, in very little time, you would see a whole pack of bums rummaging through the trash…and after they got done, the alpha street dogs would swoop in and leave an even bigger mess than the bums. Quite literally, everyday there would be bums sitting out in front of my local on a concrete slab waiting (which I have now cemented with sharp landscaping rocks). One day, I was inside of the santa maria (metal shutters to prevent rioting) and a bum was on his cell phone on the other side of the santa maria. He was telling other bums that the good shit is ready to come out of the restaurant. Seriously, we got high tech bums with a whatsapp group telling where the 5-star trash on the street is. Moral of the story: the bums will buy cheap rum, smokes and saldo (prepaid phone credit) before they will buy food.

      Yeah, the situation is really bad here. We reached the point where the Chavistas and all the poor people should be making their Konuko (“ecosocialismo” subsistence urban/rural gardens) and that every rabbit is 2 kilos of meat (great in theory, but few actually do in practice because people are mediocre…and this is why socialism always fails because people are ultimately selfish (read Freud) and generally do not practice what they preach). Needless to say, we have a couple of generations of Venezuelans who have made Venezuela a country of beggars who cant produce shit because they can only survive with government help.

      I think the grim collective realization is setting in, and to take a phrase from Comic Book Guy from the Simpsons: “2018: worst year ever!!” Hopefully there will be a collective moment of reality check this Christmas (because there will be no happy new year in 2108) and people realize the economic message of Christ: “You give a man a fish a day and he can eat for a day. You teach a man to fish and he can eat for life”. We are a pathetic country of beggars right now and there are few fishermen to be found because there is no profit in fishing. That simple.

      Feliz Chavidad!!!!!

  8. Juan, what amazes me is that, here at the bodega, the locals all mention the elections coming up for alcalde and that a new one (opposition) will be elected, and that things will somehow get better once that happens. They really have no clue what hold chavismo has on everything including the money that any opposition mayor would need to make a difference.

    I have only a few contacts with people who deliver goods on a regular basis and the story is always the same: lack of spare parts, lack of tires, everything going up dramatically in price if you can find what you need, and constant problems at the alcabalas with shakedowns. One driver who had his truck impounded for the day while trying to move plastic drums for me is at the point of just giving up the service.

    The few products I see coming into town over the last few weeks are mostly from private citizens who have businesses they’re trying to maintain, like the guy from whom I bought the chicken today (also my woman) and who get out there and hustle to find products to sell. The pepsi cola delivery guy hasn’t showed for several weeks, nor the guy who sells malta. The bread guy no longer comes because he was robbed too many times. Cigarettes still arrive, but we expect their deliveries to stop in a couple of weeks. Polar now makes about one trip per month here but most of their products are now so expensive that they don’t generate any excitment. Rice, sugar, and spaghetti are no where to be found, not even in Maturin or Barcelona. I know because my two step-daughters are looking for those products every day for their mother’s bodega.

    To date we’ve stored 19,000 kilos of white corn and plan to put an additional 10-15,000 kilos in storage and hope that lasts through next August or September. Arepas are better than nothing. Time will tell how long it holds out.

    As for activity by the government for providing relief here, the only word I’m getting from the locals is that if you want access to a CLAP box, you’d better have a Carnet de La Patria. They’re signing up in droves.

  9. These “indicators” are worthless these days in Kleptozuela. 95.89% of the population has no clue as to what they might mean, and couldn’t possibly care less.

    The only “indicator” that matters in that Cubazuelan Narco-Kleptomaniac tropical regime is the Chavistoide Theftometer Indicator” (CTI). How much can the average Venezuelan Enchufado steal per quarter, or per year. Since the majority – not all but most – of the 30 Million Kleptozuelans ‘pueblo’ people steal in one way or another, are complicit directly and/or indirectly with the Genocidal Dictatorship, this Key Economic Micro and Macro-Indicator routinely goes through the roof. Thus, it is also unfathomable, incalculable, astronomic in its Criollo “cuanto-hay-pa-eso’ nature.

    El Guiso esta sabroso. Que lo disfruten, los Millones y Millonas de Enchufados.

    • Thats the problem in Venezuela, there is no them and us, as criminality is practiced in one way or another by everybody.
      Coming from England i am just astounded by the accepted wrongdoing which is perpetrated by every socio-economic group. I see it every day.
      February and March are going to see some very interesting scenarios played out, as we see what limited rule of law we have completely break down.
      On a separate note i like ‘Guacharaca’ Live on Margarita, in our local paper today it stated that Tricada Gas has not received any new gas cylinders from PDVSA so over 50% are deemed unsafe and unusable, add to that that their transport fleet was destroyed by a recent robbery which took all their vehicle tyres and batteries, so no deliveries.
      We have however seen an explosion in minimarket shops opening in the Maneiro area owned primarily by Arabs. Most items sold are at roughly the parallel price of its cost in the States. These shops are doing a huge amount of trade.
      These shops will be burnt out empty shells by February.
      The future rocks!

  10. Ah, and there’s not only no running water in the pueblo (hasn’t been for 5 years or more), there have been no drinking water deliveries for several weeks and I imagine won’t be any more through the end of the year and well into next year.. Let that sink in.

      • Rainwater Rory14, rainwater captured in steel and plastic drums, complete with mosquito larvae, dust, rat droppings, and who knows what all else.

        And many have forgone washing as well which is really shocking because one thing I could always say about Venezuelans was that even if they’d come down from the hillside shantytowns, they were well-dressed and well-groomed. Today, not so much.

  11. I’m guessing the countryside may actually be better than the city. My family is in Caracas. My dad who is an eternal optimist is very concerned. He said that it is almost impossible to get the basics. Historically he has been able to use connections and pay. Two problems, he is running out of money. Also, even if you have money, there is nothing to be had. He expressed concern that he may be cut off from cell phone service. He says that he pays his bill but the government is not reimbursing the provider. His business has been destroyed. He has had to release hundreds of employees. He said he can only pull out the equivalent of 10 cents a day from the bank. He said that there is literally no money .

    • Yeah, cash is a major problem Vdpsc. Not only have the banks basically collapsed but there just aren’t enough bills in the streets to buy what you can find when inflation is roaring ahead.

      I recall the day I sold my first dressed chicken for 100 bs…..2.2 kilos, just a few years ago, 100 bs! And those were chickens we produced here at the house in lots of 400-500 birds, had them ready for slaughter in about 40 days. The bird I bought yesterday, 2.82 kilos, 133,000 bs. Today? No chicks, no feed, no medicines, and virtually no chickens for sale anywhere. If one doesn’t have the right contacts and cash in hand, no luck.

      2018 will be the year that really separates the wheat from the chaff as businesses go. My woman plows ahead with her bodega, scrambling, buying what she can find, working 18 hours a day. I haven’t told her anything, but I’m not convinced it can withstand what’s coming. Fortunately, there are options to help her, and I will. God help us all.

  12. Jesu Christo, what a freaking mess. Glad you have some corn, Rubio.

    How on earth is this ever going to get turned around, even if the Chavistas all fell into the ocean tomorrow?

    • “How on earth is this ever going to get turned around, even if the Chavistas all fell into the ocean tomorrow?”

      For starters, there won’t be the douchebags that keep the people from assembling a profitable business.

      That coupled with a potential workforce that basically works for free for transnacionals is an absurdly good bait to bring foreign investment.

      But we have to get rid of chavismo first.

  13. Another reason for American lefties to embrace communism is to finally get rid of plastic bags. They really don’t like them (or paper bags, for that matter).

    • The ones who keep Chivismo zombie-alive are the participants – most of them forced to participate. It’s the logical expansion of the U.S. “Deep State”, the apparatchiks, the mini-enchufados, los enchufaditos, who are bought off with enough to keep their insular worlds together for a while longer. Marx (the real life Lex Luthor, the arch-enemy of Superman) ranted about the bourgeoisie when in fact that very notion of bourgeoisie, mindless bureaucrats on nine-to-five payroll, is precisely what socialism is all about. The lefties abandon religion because it suits their nihilist picture of life: it ends when one dies, and there is nothing at all. That excuses their cowardly irresponsibility, you see? (Privately – haha – I think this is a manifestation of the lefties’ recognition of their own incompetence, and is motivated by fear, so their mantra is to “all hold hands together”, and the worst will be over soon. Of course if everyone is holding hands, not much work gets done, kind of like football players “taking a knee” doesn’t get much football played. By contrast, you have religious people who believe life is, somehow, eternal, that there is rhyme and reason, responsibility, and harmony with The Creator. A bit difficult, because Man is given free will to discover for himself – big and fun debate: did we get a full deck, to begin with, or is the real full deck the fact that we had to find the missing cards ourselves, as individuals? And there are mouths to be fed, with good reason to do so. There is a game to be played, there is competition, and the goal is to score playing fair, to be more honest, more upfront, more productive, more logical, more practical, and more alive. With integrity one’s own life comes closer to harmony, closer to what is right. Something like that ….) By the way, can anyone explain what a “paragraph” is supposed to be about?


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