Archive for February 3rd, 2007

Macondo Project Managing or shrimp farming on a shoe string

February 3, 2007

Last Sunday Hugo Chavez complained about the shrimp-farming project for which the Government had given one billion Bolivars (US$ 465,000 at the official rate of exchange) to the Mayor of Tucupita, the capital of Delta Amacuro state. Much like CAEEZ, the sugar plant in which US$ 200 million was wasted, the more we hear about this project the crazier it sounds. It reflects all of the problems of believing the state can do it all, which is even worse now that there are no checks and balances, if Chavez had not brought it up, nobody would know about it. There are hundreds of cases like this, we just don’t know about them, they are part of a style of managing, which can’t deserve any other name but “Macondo Project Managing” in honor of that fantasy place that Garcia Marquez created.

One has to wonder, what the Mayor of a city is doing building and accounting for all the steps in the construction of a shrimp farm, rather than providing services for the people of his municipality, one of the poorest and least developed of the country. But such is the folly of Chavez’ Bolivarian revolution, the belief that a state that can barely provide even the most basic services and infrastructure to its citizens, can simultaneously become manager, executor and developer of projects and companies, suing Government funds.

Yes, we could call it Macondo, but in the 1970’s it was called Corporacion Venezolana de Fomento (CVF), which in the late 80’s dissolved and scrapped over one thousand Government owned companies, all state funded and managed, and of which only a few were even self-supporting.

As we have said before “Been there, done that” and “the more things change the more they stay the same” except now they call it a revolution.

Below another account from El Nacional, about the shrimp project which speaks for itself. Note the ambitious project, the small size of the funds an how they are almost gone and very little has been accomplished:

In Tucupita the shrimp-farming project seems like a ghost project. Some inhabitants of that municipality of the state of Delta Amacuro have no idea that there is a processor of crustaceans that is being built. Others have the impression that they have heard something about the topic, but they have more doubts than certainties, about an emblematic project under execution.

The truth is that the existence of a shrimp farming facility in this area gained notoriety last Sunday, when President Hugo Chávez, in his Sunday program, protested by the supposed paralyzation of the project and complained to the Governor of that state “my good friend Ylitza Santaella”

In fact, while the inhabitants of Tucupita have a vague idea about it, the Mayor is doing all he can to account for the advances of the project. The completion of the project was supposed to be in March of this year and everything indicates that it will not be ready.

The General Director of City Hall in Tucupita, Freddy Rodriguez makes it clear that is not a specter, it is a project under construction, he states firmly: “ many factors have influenced in the delays in completing it, there is still time because the completion of the shrimp farm is scheduled for March of this year and we have not stopped working.”

Rodriguez mentions the statements given by the Mayor of Tucupita, Edgar Dominguez a week ago, in local radio stations, in which he listed the reasons for the delays.

“Initially the project was for blue langoustines, restructuring it to change it to fresh water shrimp took a couple of months”

He explained that the approved budget, of 1.9 millardos of bolivars (close to U$ 1 million) was deposited in Banco Industrial de Venezuela, which does not have a branch in Tucupita, when the Mayor expected that it would be deposited in Banfoandes, whose branch was ready to be inaugurated there. “It was three months later when the Mayor was told that the money was at the Industrial bank. Those ups and downs have carried with it the partial execution of the funds handed over”

The shrimp-farming project is divided in two stages; the first one is the construction of the processing plant with 24 artificial lagoons and the second the breeding of the product. The 1.9 billon bolivars were only for the first stage. The Mayor of Tucupita has said that so far he has invested 1.2 billion Bolivars in the infrastructure for the stocking center and in the acquisition of the refrigeration equipment and other machines for the selection and processing. “According to the expenses we could say that we have completed more than 50% of the project”

For the construction of the production center, which will comprise 24 artificial lagoons, which will be located in 100 Hectares of land in an agricultural area near Tucupita, we have 700 million Bolivars in the bank. But other factors have had an influence, adds Rodriguez: “ The Mayor has said clearly that we have had problems obtaining the permits from the Ministry of the Environment and add to that, that part of the land was invaded and we had to negotiate, without mentioning the rains at the end of 2006. All of this has delayed the completion of the project”

Dominguez is in Caracas to meet with representatives of the Executive branch. On Wednesday he handed over a report on the case to the Comptroller and he will ask for an extension until the completion of the project.

A characteristic billboard of the Bolivarian Government says: “New cooperative Orinoco Najoro Project”. This is what identifies the construction of the shrimp-processing farm

On the billboard they offer “shrimp and agricultural products from the Orinoco delta for Venezuela and the world”, but it does not say who is in charge of the project.

Within the limits where what will become the processing plant is located, there is an old and deteriorated house, which as explained by Jairo Pinto, one of the workers, will be for the offices. On one side there is a metallic structure of approximately 30 meters by 15 meters, according to Pinto’s calculations, who counted with his steps the dimensions of the place. “The coolers will be here, this space is for deposits” and thus he continued the visit while he ended each phrase with “supposedly”

Pinto started working for the project six months ago. “At that time the metallic structure of the building was already in place and only the floor was missing” the worker remembers.

The Secretary General of City Hall mentions that there are delays in the shrimp project, but it all has an explanation.

You have t take into account the mishap we have had in finishing the project, that is why we will request more time. Today the eyes are all on the shrimp farm of Tucupita, but in Delta Amacuro State there are five projects that were begun, all have been stopped without finishing them”, he concludes.