How to be a cynic with perversity, or how to lie with statistics

June 30, 2003

The old book by Darrel Huff came to life again in a perverse way yesterday, when the Minister of Finance gloated in the interview in El Universal: ” There is an alteration in the matter of numbers, by which the measure of the total debt has to be made over the total GDP and currently it stands at 40%, when in 1996 it was 46%, thus it is manageable and when the economy recovers that percentage will get even smaller”.

True, the percentage has gone down, but the reason is absolutely perverse. It has gone down because due to the purposeful policy of Giordani at the beginning of the Chávez administration and the inability of this Government to issue debt abroad, internal debt has ballooned from less than 2 trillion Bs. to over 16 trillion Bs. during the Chavez administration. With the sharp devaluation of the last year and a half, this debt, converted from US dollars to bolivars, has been reduced in dollar terms significantly. Of course, the net reduction of the debt has come at the expense of the population whose purchasing power has been simply decimated over that same period. Moreover, the issuing of this internal debt in huge numbers to sophisticated investors has to end at some point in a financial crisis, which will once again destroy the lives of those that Chávez and his cohorts claim to suffer for daily. In fact, if that is how the Minister “measures” his perverse inefficiency, he could devalue all the way to Bs. 5,000 per US$ and simply get that ratio he loves to 30%.

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