Thursday, February 05, 2009

The B.S. comes full circle 

During the first years of the Chavez government most of the fighting between the Chavez government and its opponents revolved around one thing - control of the state oil company PDVSA. Things finally came to a head in 2002/2003 when the management of PDVSA launched a "strike" aimed at toppling the Chavez government. Fortunately it failed.

But there is some recent news that makes me think back to that time. Back then there were many debates about the oil company - was it a black box? was it an efficient meritocracy or a bloated and mismanaged enterprise? should it be looking to expand or work with OPEC to boost oil prices? etc.

However, there was one particular fact that wasn't much disputed - that it was over staffed, and in particular that it had too many managers and executives. That is, not only did the Chavez government accuse it of that but many friends of the old PDVSA management conceded that point.

Of course, they gave a reason for it, in this case that two formerly seperate divisions of PDVSA had merged thereby doubling the number of people in administrative positions and making the organization top heavy. But they explained this away saying that as PDVSA grew it would grow into the size management it had and so the over staffing was temporary.

Of course, the Chavez government took this as a load of BS, as did I, and pointed out there was no excuse for this sort of inefficiency in a organization that is supposed to be working for all Venezuelans, not just the lucky few fortunate enough to have jobs there.

Sadly, the BS has now come full cirlce. The now Chavez led PDVSA recently agreed to make very significant cutbacks in oil production in line with the cuts in their OPEC quota. Makes perfect sense and they are absolutely right to do it.

Thing is, they also told all the workers, managers, and contractors: "Don't worry, we aren't going to lay any of you off".

Think about what this means. Venezuela will be producing at least 15% less oil but it will have the exact same number of oil workers and managers (all of whom are paid VERY well by Venezuelan standards). They have idled drilling rigs but the workers who ran those rigs are still getting paid... to do what? Play cards? If so maybe they can play them with all the toll collectors paid to not collect tolls (remember that one?).

Anyways, it is sort of ironic that the Chavistas complained for so long about PDVSA being run like a private club for the benefit of those who worked there only to turn around and run it in a very similar way once they came to be in charge.

Maybe some day a real revolution will come to Venezuela and change that.


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