[Debate] NYT finds a bigger enemy than Syrian and Iran: price controls in Venezuela!
peterwaterman1936 at gmail.com
Sat Apr 21 20:36:49 BST 2012
Are you writing to me? Or am I writing to you (bearing in mind your
ferocious criticism of the Left on Libya/Syria)?
I would rather hear what the independent Left in Venezuela has to say about
I expect that in so far as there are such problems in V, they would be due
to inexperience on the part of the regime, as well, possibly, as arbitrary
decision-making on behalf of El Lider Maximo. But I am not well-enough
versed in the V situation to make even modest suggestions.
On Sat, Apr 21, 2012 at 8:30 PM, Yoshie Furuhashi <
critical.montages at gmail.com> wrote:
> What's your solution?
> On Sat, Apr 21, 2012 at 2:25 PM, peter waterman
> <peterwaterman1936 at gmail.com> wrote:
> > The problem, Yoshie, is that this sounds to me not only like Cuba, with
> > special circumstances, but like every 'socialist' country I ever lived
> in or
> > visited, with the exception of Yugoslavia in the 1980s (or at least
> > Belgrade).
> > So this may not be a matter of a NYT scare story.
> > 1955, 10 years after the Communist takeover and the nationalisation of
> > everything, you sometimes could not find toilet paper or contraceptives
> > the stories - fairly basic goods. And there were no capitalists and only
> > tiny percentage of individual farmers to hold up supplies.
> > In Russia, right up till the end of 'socialism' people would carry with
> > a string bag, called a 'just in case', or something like that.
> > In Prague, if oranges appeared in a shop, people would tip off
> neighbours or
> > fellow workers and there would be an instant queue. Even Czech beer would
> > run out - a little like coffee running out in this report.
> > PeterW
> > On Sat, Apr 21, 2012 at 6:40 PM, Yoshie Furuhashi
> > <critical.montages at gmail.com> wrote:
> >> On the front page today, where there's nothing about Syria or Iran.
> >> <http://nyti.ms/JviwYP>
> >> April 20, 2012
> >> With Venezuelan Cupboards Bare, Some Blame Price Controls
> >> By WILLIAM NEUMAN
> >> CARACAS, Venezuela — By 6:30 a.m., a full hour and a half before the
> >> store would open, about two dozen people were already in line. They
> >> waited patiently, not for the latest iPhone, but for something far
> >> more basic: groceries.
> >> “Whatever I can get,” said Katherine Huga, 23, a mother of two,
> >> describing her shopping list. She gave a shrug of resignation. “You
> >> buy what they have.”
> >> Venezuela is one of the world’s top oil producers at a time of soaring
> >> energy prices, yet shortages of staples like milk, meat and toilet
> >> paper are a chronic part of life here, often turning grocery shopping
> >> into a hit or miss proposition.
> >> Some residents arrange their calendars around the once-a-week
> >> deliveries made to government-subsidized stores like this one, lining
> >> up before dawn to buy a single frozen chicken before the stock runs
> >> out. Or a couple of bags of flour. Or a bottle of cooking oil.
> >> The shortages affect both the poor and the well-off, in surprising
> >> ways. A supermarket in the upscale La Castellana neighborhood recently
> >> had plenty of chicken and cheese — even quail eggs — but not a single
> >> roll of toilet paper. Only a few bags of coffee remained on a bottom
> >> shelf.
> >> Asked where a shopper could get milk on a day when that, too, was out
> >> of stock, a manager said with sarcasm, “At Chávez’s house.”
> >> At the heart of the debate is President Hugo Chávez’s
> >> socialist-inspired government, which imposes strict price controls
> >> that are intended to make a range of foods and other goods more
> >> affordable for the poor. They are often the very products that are the
> >> hardest to find.
> >> “Venezuela is too rich a country to have this,” Nery Reyes, 55, a
> >> restaurant worker, said outside a government-subsidized store in the
> >> working-class Santa Rosalía neighborhood. “I’m wasting my day here
> >> standing in line to buy one chicken and some rice.”
> >> Venezuela was long one of the most prosperous countries in the region,
> >> with sophisticated manufacturing, vibrant agriculture and strong
> >> businesses, making it hard for many residents to accept such
> >> widespread scarcities. But amid the prosperity, the gap between rich
> >> and poor was extreme, a problem that Mr. Chávez and his ministers say
> >> they are trying to eliminate.
> >> They blame unfettered capitalism for the country’s economic ills and
> >> argue that controls are needed to keep prices in check in a country
> >> where inflation rose to 27.6 percent last year, one of the highest
> >> rates in the world. They say companies cause shortages on purpose,
> >> holding products off the market to push up prices. This month, the
> >> government required price cuts on fruit juice, toothpaste, disposable
> >> diapers and more than a dozen other products.
> >> “We are not asking them to lose money, just that they make money in a
> >> rational way, that they don’t rob the people,” Mr. Chávez said
> >> recently.
> >> But many economists call it a classic case of a government causing a
> >> problem rather than solving it. Prices are set so low, they say, that
> >> companies and producers cannot make a profit. So farmers grow less
> >> food, manufacturers cut back production and retailers stock less
> >> inventory. Moreover, some of the shortages are in industries, like
> >> dairy and coffee, where the government has seized private companies
> >> and is now running them, saying it is in the national interest.
> >> In January, according to a scarcity index compiled by the Central Bank
> >> of Venezuela, the difficulty of finding basic goods on store shelves
> >> was at its worst level since 2008. While that measure has eased
> >> considerably, many products can still be hard to come by.
> >> Datanálisis, a polling firm that regularly tracks scarcities, said
> >> that powdered milk, a staple here, could not be found in 42 percent of
> >> the stores its researchers visited in early March. Liquid milk can be
> >> even harder to find.
> >> Other products in short supply last month, according to Datanálisis,
> >> included beef, chicken, vegetable oil and sugar. The polling firm also
> >> says that the problem is most extreme in the government-subsidized
> >> stores that were created to provide affordable food to the poor.
> >> But with inflation so crippling, many shoppers at those stores said
> >> the inconvenience was worth it.
> >> “It’s an enormous help,” said Ana Lozano, 62, a retiree who takes in
> >> ironing to supplement her pension, who was waiting outside the Santa
> >> Rosalía grocery. “That’s why there’s such a long line.”
> >> The government appears keenly aware of the twin threats of shortages
> >> and inflation as it prepares for the October election in which Mr.
> >> Chávez is seeking a new six-year term. The price controls have been
> >> defended in government advertisements and accompanied by repeated
> >> threats from Mr. Chávez to nationalize any company that cannot keep
> >> its products on the market.
> >> Vice President Elías Jaua has warned of a media campaign to frighten
> >> Venezuelans into hoarding, which would provoke artificial shortages.
> >> Government advertisements urge consumers not to succumb to panic
> >> buying, using a proverbial admonition: Bread for today is hunger for
> >> tomorrow.
> >> Francisco Rodríguez, an economist with Bank of America Merrill Lynch
> >> who studies the Venezuelan economy, said the government might score
> >> some political points with the new round of price controls. But over
> >> time, he argued, they will spell trouble for the economy.
> >> “In the medium to long term, this is going to be a disaster,” Mr.
> >> Rodriguez said.
> >> The price controls also mean that products missing from store shelves
> >> usually show up on the black market at much higher prices, a source of
> >> outrage for many. For government supporters, that is proof of
> >> speculation. Others say it is the consequence of a misguided policy.
> >> Emilio Ortiz, 52, a shop owner, said he could buy sugar and powdered
> >> milk from his distributors only once last year. He gets cooking oil
> >> once a month, but only about half of what he requests. He also said
> >> that profits were so low on controlled products that he must raise
> >> other prices to compensate.
> >> One of his customers asked if the store had Harina Pan, which is
> >> considered the quintessential local brand of flour to use in making
> >> arepas, the signature corn cakes that are a staple of the Venezuelan
> >> diet.
> >> “There isn’t any,” Mr. Ortiz said. It would be like an American store
> >> not having any Coca-Cola.
> >> The customer asked if other stores nearby carried it.
> >> “You can’t find it,” Mr. Ortiz said glumly.
> >> If there is one product that Venezuela should be able to produce in
> >> abundance it is coffee, a major crop here for centuries. Until 2009,
> >> Venezuela was a coffee exporter, but it began importing large amounts
> >> of it three years ago to make up for a decline in production.
> >> Farmers and coffee roasters say the problem is simple: retail price
> >> controls keep profits close to or below what it costs farmers to grow
> >> and harvest the coffee. As a result, many do not invest in new
> >> plantings or fertilizer, or they cut back on the amount of land used
> >> to grow coffee. Making matters worse, the recent harvest was poor in
> >> many areas.
> >> A group representing small- to medium-size roasters said last month
> >> that there was no domestic coffee left on the wholesale market — the
> >> earliest time of year that industry leaders could remember such
> >> supplies running out. The group announced a deal with the government
> >> to buy imported beans to keep coffee on store shelves.
> >> Similar problems have played out with other agricultural products
> >> under price controls, like lags in production and rising imports for
> >> beef, milk and corn.
> >> Waiting in line to buy chicken and other staples, Jenny Montero, 30,
> >> recalled how she could not find cooking oil last fall and had to
> >> switch from the fried food she prefers to soups and stews.
> >> “It was good for me,” she said drily, pushing her 14-month-old
> >> daughter in a stroller. “I lost several pounds.”
> >> María Eugenia Díaz contributed reporting.
> >> --
> >> Yoshie Furuhashi
> >> <http://mrzine.org/>
> >> _______________________________________________
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> > --
> > 1. Invitation: May 1, 2012! Contribute to 'New Worker Movements'!
> > 2. Blog: http://www.unionbook.org/profile/peterwaterman
> > 3. EBook 2011, 'Under, Against, Beyond - Essays 1980s-
> > 1990s'shttp://
> > 4. WorkingPaper 2012: 'Emancipatory Labour Studies':
> > 5. Draft EBook 2012: 'Recovering Internationalism - Essays 2000-10'
> > http://www.scribd.com/doc/82125289/ReCovIntComp-A-2
> > http://www.scribd.com/doc/82129474/ReCovtIntComp-B-2
> > 6. Essay 2012: 'The 2nd Coming of the World Federation of Trade Unions':
> > _______________________________________________
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> Yoshie Furuhashi
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*1.* Invitation: May 1, 2012! Contribute to 'New Worker
2.* Blog:* http://www.unionbook.org/profile/peterwaterman
*3. EBook 2011, 'Under, Against, Beyond - Essays 1980s-
4. WorkingPaper *2012*: 'Emancipatory Labour
*5.* Draft EBook 2012: 'Recovering Internationalism - Essays 2000-10'
*6. *Essay 2012: 'The 2nd Coming of the World Federation of Trade
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