Sunday, November 06, 2005

Talk about having messed up priorities 

Ultimas Noticias had a little article about the problems Venezuela is having upgrading and maintaining its F-16 fighter jets now that the U.S. is refusing to supply spare parts. But what was eye catching was they mentioned that the cost to purchase these airplanes from the United States back in 1983 was $624 million. Popping that into an inflation calculator that comes to almost $1.2 billion in today’s dollars!! $1.2 billion dollars for a bunch of expensive toys that have never really served any purpose and rendered no benefit to the country. And god only knows how much more they’ve spent on maintenance and operating costs for the F-16s over the years.

The Venezuelan opposition likes to complain about how much money Chavez is supposedly “wasting”. Yet when they were running the government and had an oil windfall they spent more than a billion dollars on unneeded fighter aircraft. With much less money than that the Chavez administration recently eradicated illiteracy in Venezuela.

And you think this kind of waste was some sort of aberration? Unfortunately it was anything but. For example in the 1970s the Venezuelan government bought a bunch of Italian frigates for its Navy. The cost was $600 million (popping that into the inflation calculator it comes to $2.1 billion in today’s dollars). And to add insult to injury it turned out $60 million was paid in kickbacks to Venezuelan officials including $40 million to the President’s mistress, Cecilia Matos (Ms. Matos’s kickback comes to $113 million in today’s dollars).

As we have seen the Chavez administration has used its oil windfall to address the long neglected problems such as poverty and illiteracy. Why didn’t the people who currently make up the Venezuelan opposition address these problems when they controlled the government and had an oil windfall of even larger proportions? Maybe, as these examples would seem to indicate, they just had other priorities.


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