After eleven years of failed policies, the Government of President Hugo Chavez will finally achieve what it has been unable to achieve in any other field: It will bring to all Venezuelan citizens a true feature of socialism in the form of electricity rationing. Yes, I know, dollars were rationed too before, but the poor have no access to them. Thus, for the first time the Government will impose a policy on all of the citizens which represents a worsening of their quality of life, certainly a very distinct characteristic of socialism and similar regimes. Somehow, they always end up imposing rationing of some sort.
Way to go Hugo!
And if the policy was not bad enough, it was announced an implemented with the same level of confusion, incompetence and improvisation that caused the electricity shortages, Daniel has a good summary of some of them, but I will describe some in more detail.
Basically, in Caracas (so far the rationing details have not been announced everywhere), every two days, wherever you live or work, there will be rationing for four hours in 4×6 chunks. You can download this complex document (see one page above, including the cynical Ahora Venezuela es de Todos sign), where you can see which Areas of Caracas correspond to each block. If you are in block A then you can find when your home or work will have the electricity shut off from midnight to 4 AM, from 4 AM to 8 AM and so forth.
Except that for each area, even to some streets, there are six zones for each residential or business area. That is if you are in Zone 1…
but wait, nowhere does it say how these zones are defined! That is, rationing begins tonight in about three hours, but nobody knows what their Zone number is. I have reviewed my electric Bill, no zone. I have tried to log in to the Corpoelec website, overwhelmed. Electricidad de Caracas website, also overwhelmed. Not ready for prime time, but coming very soon.
You’ve gotta love the robolution! Even when they deliver socialism, they do it inefficiently and incompetently!
But I digress..
Once again, the Government imposes a half-baked model. Since it is hard to know when somebody will or not be shutdown, there will be a lot of frustration and wasted time.
Let me give you a simple example: Suppose somebody wants to visit my office. We actually installed an emergency back up power plant eight months ago (We were certainly not surprised by all this, even if the Government was!). It can power us up for a total of 24 hours. However, if the person does know we are open, they will not show up. And even if they do, they may not want to walk up eight flights of stairs and then sit in my office without air conditioning for an hour or so.
But then look at it from our point of view, if our counterparts in our business are shut down, that in itself will hamper my business. How can I sell somebody something if they are not there? Because in fact, few of my counterparts had the foresight to get an emergency plant. In fact, we were originally told we could not install one in our building, but when the future looked clear to many last year, we were told to go ahead. (If we knew, why didn’t the Government know?)
And remember, the lag now is eight months to install an emergency power plant of any reasonable size. (I am also purchasing two Uninterrupted Power Supplies for my ADSL, WiFi and computers at home, if I am going to sit at home in the dark from 8 PM to 12 PM some nights, I might as well be surfing or blogging, no?)
I am just waiting for the Government to argue that this will not impact economic growth. Sure, fewer and more inefficient hours of work, have no impact in the economy. Tell me about Cinderella now!
And then we come to my biggest concern: Crime. You can be sure that criminals will be looking at the same maps to take advantage of the lack of police and security in whole areas that will now have no lights for four hours at a time:No lights, no alarms, no police, a sweet model indeed!For crime. Crime will go up, that is about the only prediction you can make.
Unfortunately, it will go up unevenly. This is where socialism will break down, poor areas will be hurt the most. Because they have more crime to begin with, because they have less security and because they are more exposed.
Because in the end my argument is false, absolutely spurious. Most of what Chavez and his Government does in the end hurts the poor more, not equally with the well to do, The devaluation hurt the well to do less, because those that can save at least managed to preserve some of their purchasing power in the form of savings in dollars. The poor don’t save. Or if they have a job, the purchasing power of the well to do will be restored in time, but the poor’s will take time to recover. It will take years now for the Government to even try to argue that the poor are better off in Venezuela under the robolution. This is the 2002 devaluation in steroids!. Crimes will get worse for everyone, but it will be worse for the poor. And inflation will affect the poor much more than it affects those that have jobs and purchasing power.
Short term, I actually think that this will piss people off more than the devaluation. This has an immediate effect on the quality of life of every single Venezuelan. The devaluation will show its ugly face slowly over the next two months.
Remarkably, it is hard to imagine anybody, anyone, doing a job that is worse than this. Everything, from economic, policy, to oil policy, energy policy , has been royally screwed up by the Chavez Government. Only the fact that oil prices soared had managed to mask the perverse effects of ignorance, incompetence and the full devotion to politics of Chavez’ Government.
Now that Socialism is here to stay, Venezuelans should brace themselves for many forms of shortages and rationing. If your lights go out at midnight where you live, turn on your flashlight and your laptop (keep fully charged!) and you will immediately know what is the number of the zone where you live!