Saturday, December 02, 2006

Eight years of Chavez, eight years of accomplishments 

When Venezuelans go to the polls in a few hours they will be making what for most of them will be an easy choice. In all likelihood most of them will want to continue down the path Chavez has started them on.

The reason for that really doesn’t have much to do with what Chavez has said or promised to do, nor even with whatever emotions he has inspired. Rather, most Venezuelans appreciate what Chavez has accomplished over the past eight years. Lets look at what some of those accomplishments have been.

In 1999 Chavez inherited a country very much headed in the wrong direction. The previous decades had seen poverty increasing, the economy stagnating, a hyper-corrupt business/political class looting the country and violent repression of dissent.

Yet as bad as things were there is no indication they had even hit bottom. The economy was literally shrinking before Chavez took office which was largely the result of self-defeating oil policies that wasted billions of dollars on money losing investments while sending the price of oil through the floor.

As soon as Chavez came to office he fired those responsible for the disasterous policies, revitalized OPEC, started raising taxes and royalties on oil companies, and ever since Venezuela has been reaping the benefit of steadily rising oil prices:

Rising oil prices have brought windfall revenues which returned the state oil company, PDVSA, to levels of profitability not seen in decades. This in turn has fueled dramatic economic growth over Chavez’s turn. The economy has stumbled when the opposition has led coups and oil strikes but when the country has been calm, as it has been over the past three years, it has prospered under Chavez.

Most all of Venezuela’s economic indicators have turned highly positive.

Inflation, which was up to 100% a year under the previous government, has been tamed:

Public debt in relation to GDP is declining and is less than when he came to office:

Foreign reserves of hard currency are at an all time high and more than double the level of when he came to office:

Hundreds of thousands of new jobs have been created (mainly in the private sector) with almost 400,000 being added in the past year alone as this graphic shows:

Consumption of Venezuelan consumers has reached levels not seen since the early 1980s (it is actually off this chart!):

This does has its down side though, as record auto sales have left Venezuelan streets jammed with new cars

What have all these good economic numbers done your average Venezuelan? Simple, they have boosted their standard of living significantly. The lowest social classes have seen their real income rise dramatically:

For more details see here and here.

Poverty, in spite of going up after the opposition led oil strike has gone down dramatically recently with 37% of Venezuelans now being poor compared to 47% before Chavez came to office:

Of course, Chavez hasn’t been content just to let oil revenues go up, he has also taken the novel approach of actually collecting taxes from Venezuelan business people.

All of this means that not only do average Venezuelans have a lot more money in their pockets but so does the government. And what has the government done with all that money. See for yourself.

It has set about building dignified housing for people. Previous public housing was junk that often wound up like these never used buildings in Barquisimeto:

By way of contrast the housing build now is attractive and durable:

And it is even nicer on the inside than it is on the outside

Which housing would you prefer to live in?

He has set up thousands of low cost stores throughout Venezuela and had them well stocked with staples of everyday life and needed medications. Almost half the Venezuelan population benefits from these reduced price stores:

He has built literally hundreds of new medical facilities chock full of state of the art equipment and given millions of Venezuelans access to modern health care for the first time in their lives.

He has built scores of new universities and schools while renovating others:

He has built massive hydroelectric plants that will reduce dramatically the amount of oil Venezuela has to consume internally:

And no sooner does he finish one than he begins another:

He tunneled through mountains and bridged ravines to begin the process of linking Venezuelan cities by rail:

To help ease overcrowding he has built two new subway lines in Caracas and has expanded another:

Mass transit has for the first time expanded outside of Caracas (the only city previous governments ever seemed to care about ).

Venezuela’s third largest city, Valencia, now has a subway

Not to be outdone, a few weeks later Venezuela’s second largest city got its own subway

And Merida, a university city up in the Andes, got a trolley bus system (now open!)

His government built a spectacular bridge over the Orinoco river uniting seperate parts of the country:

Public spaces in Venezuelan cities which were once decrepit now shine:

Where ever one looks in Venezuela one see positive change. It may be rather ironic, but if Ronald Reagan were alive he would probably tell Venezuelans they should ask themselves if they are better off now than they were eight years ago. The answer of most Venezuelans would be a resounding yes and it is for that reason that Chavez will most likely have a resounding victory.


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