Friday, December 09, 2005


Readers will recall that a couple of months ago the Venezuelan state oil company, PDVSA, released its audited Financial Statements for 2003. The Financial Statement, which can be found here, provided a wealth of information in its 150 pages. Not only did it give very detailed production numbers (which proved the government had been providing correct information all along while the opponents of Chavez had been lying) but it gave everything from how many rigs were in operation, to a description of Venezuela`s different oil fields, to how much the total compensation package was for its top executives.

I took advantage of being in Caracas to go to PDVSA`s headquarters and try to look up some Financial Statements from before the Chavez government came into office. Even just walking in off the street I was granted access to PDVSA`s library without any problems or questions asked. And there I found copies of their financial statements going back for years.

I pulled out the 1998 financial statements and started to look for the information I wanted. I was immediately dismayed. Instead of finding something analogous to the 150 page very detailed report that the current management had prepared I found a skimpy 40 page report which provided very little information at all, and none of the information I was looking for. For example, I was hoping that the 1998 report would give the total compensation paid to the top executives as the current report did. Yet this information wasn´t in the 1998 report at all. I guess the previous management of PDVSA didn´t want the general public to know how much money they were making. Further while the 2003 report provided all sorts of numbers on oil production, such as how much was produced in each region, how much of each type of oil was produced, and how much was exported the 1998 report gave absolutely NO information on oil production.

At this point I became a little peturbed. After all, for years now I have been listeng to the opposition decry the CURRENT government as a block box. Further, we have always been told that the previous management of PDVSA was very thorough, professional, and provided detailed information. Yet looking at this report I realized that wasn´t true at all. The current PDVSA management is providing far more detailed reports and more information then the previous management. And while the opposition often derided PDVSA for being late with its financial reports now I know why they were never late with theirs - they were so skimpy they could probably be thrown together in a couple of days. Even to say the old reports contained 40 pages is an exageration as a good share of that was taken up with pictures. It is very evident that the old PDVSA management provided the information it had to by law - nothing more. While the new PDVSA management willing provides voluminous amounts of information the old management sure seems to have acted as though it had something to hide.

All of this leads to the larger issue of governmental tranparency. While the opposition tries in its international propoganda campeign to say that the Venezuelan government is opaque and deliberately tries to withold information from its citizens nothing could be further from the truth. Not only does the above example show this but so too does the outcome of last weeks elections which were deemed fully transparent by two sets of international observers. So too do the full page advertisements taken out in national newspapers to explain everything from the governments budget to reforms in Venezuelan laws. And in traveling around Venezuela it quickly becomes apparent that even highway overpasses are being put to use to explain to average Venezuelans what exactly their government is doing. Take these examples:

This sign put up by the Venezuelan tax authorities asks `Do you know where your taxes are going?` It then goes on to explain that 2% of the budget goes to fund the court and jail system.

This one tells us that 32% of Venezuela`s budget goes to fund sports, culture, and education.

And this one tells us that 1.85% of the budget goes to fund science and technology.

These signs are all over the place. It is hard to go more than a few miles without running into them. So after having spent some time crisscrossing Venezuela I can tell you I know a lot more about the Venezuelan budget than I do about the United States budget even though that is the country where I pay taxed. I have yet to see any signs in the U.S. along the lines of `10% of the budget goes to bomb into submission countries that George Bush doesn´t like`. Yet while asking your average American how much the U.S. spends on education would probably ellicit nothing but blank stares I would bet most Venezuelan`s could tell precisely how much their government spends on it.

Once again we see that the assertions made by the opposition`s propaganda machine just do not conform to reality. For not only is Venezuela`s government not a black box it is probably fair to say it is setting the worldwide standard for transparency.


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?