Some words from a true expert on poverty…

January 8, 2008

I have a lot of respect for Luis Pedro España who I considered to be the country’s foremost expert on poverty. He is extremely knowledgeable, articulate and he combines knowledge of social sciences with economics, a rare thing in this era of specialization. He also looks at a lots of statistics of what people are saying or doing in Venezuela and understands them thoroughly. I have translated some of his articles before, but today he was interviewed in El Nacional and has some insights that I thought should be shared with you. The highlights:

—The poverty of income, no matter how you calculate it, has dropped…but that does not work as a reference in a country where we can double oil income, but maintain school desertion rates, or the patterns of mortality and the lack of infrastructure.

—People can consume more because PDVSA has higher income. When the oil market gets a cold, we could die of pneumonia.

—Barrio Adentro has not changed the rate of infant mortality. Mision Vuelvan Caras has not reduced informal employment. Mision Ribas has not ended with school desertion. All of these problems attack the consequences of the problems but not their causes.

—The most emblematic thing about misiones is their political management, not their real efficacy. Almost 80% of the population knows the misiones, but only 3% have benefited from it. The Misiones have a very high propaganda value. That credibility of the misiones is dropping.

—Fundamental social problems are still intact and the worst part is that an excellent opportunity to place social policy on the forefront has been wasted. And the people are realizing it.

—People have been with Chavez but they are not unconditional. Because they make demands, they want water and the homes they were promised. I do believe there is a lot of disenchantment.

—It is very clear that the problems of the people have not been solved. The only place where the opposite is believed is in the statistics office soft the Government, But you go out in the streets and people believe that their crime problem, their housing problem, their unemployment problem, their health and their education problem have not been solved, And when you ask them why, they blame corruption And after that inefficiency.

—It is possible for Chavez to become very unpopular. And he was that for a time, even if few people remember it. I am talking about the end of 2001, when an economic crisis began which forced him to make adjustments in 2002. He was forced on February 14th. 2002 to devalue by 50% and cut public expenditures. That had a very strong effect on all of us, including the poor. The economic situation was very bad. But then came the coup and the strike and paradoxically, that helped Chavez. Today the people remember that the economic crisis was generated by the opposition and not because of the wrong policies of the Government.

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