Monday, February 23, 2009

10 years under Chavez (a mainstream economic report card)

While I am of the opinion the revolution in Venezuela must continue to move forward and end current property relations or it is doomed to fail; I'm certainly not against enacting progressive reforms along the way. The following report gives an idea of what has been accomplished so far. (Obviously, at least from my point of view, not everything is positive. Many of these programs show their limitations within the confines of a capitalist system.) It was done by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a research institute with Nobel laureates Joe Stiglitz and Robert Solow, among others, on its advisory board.

Key points (as taken from the report):

* The current economic expansion began when the government got control over the national oil company in the first quarter of 2003. Since then, real (inflation-adjusted) GDP has nearly doubled, growing by 94.7 percent in 5.25 years, or 13.5 percent annually.

* Most of this growth has been in the non-oil sector of the economy, and the private sector has grown faster than the public sector.

* During the current economic expansion, the poverty rate has been cut by more than half, from 54 percent of households in the first half of 2003 to 26 percent at the end of 2008. Extreme poverty has fallen even more, by 72 percent. These poverty rates measure only cash income, and does not take into account increased access to health care or education.

* Over the entire decade, the percentage of households in poverty has been reduced by 39 percent, and extreme poverty by more than half.

* Inequality, as measured by the Gini index, has also fallen substantially. The index has fallen to 41 in 2008, from 48.1 in 2003 and 47 in 1999. This represents a large reduction in inequality.

* Real (inflation-adjusted) social spending per person more than tripled from 1998-2006.

* From 1998-2006, infant mortality has fallen by more than one third. The number of primary care physicians in the public sector increased 12-fold from 1999-2007, providing health care to millions of Venezuelans who previously did not have access.

* There have been substantial gains in education, especially higher education, where gross enrollment rates more than doubled from 1999/2000 to 2007/2008.

* The labor market also improved substantially over the last decade, with unemployment dropping from 11.3 percent to 7.8 percent. During the current expansion it has fallen by more than half. Other labor market indicators also show substantial gains.

* Over the past decade, the number of social security beneficiaries has more than

* Over the decade, the government's total public debt has fallen from 30.7 to 14.3 percent of GDP. The foreign public debt has fallen even more, from 25.6 to 9.8 percent of GDP.

* Inflation is about where it was 10 years ago, ending the year at 31.4 percent. However it has been falling over the last half year (as measured by three-month averages) and is likely to continue declining this year in the face of strong deflationary pressures worldwide.