Archive for February 2nd, 2016

Hyperinflated Arepa Index (HAI) XII: Hard To Break The Bs. 1,000 Barrier

February 2, 2016

arepa

Well, I must say I was expecting the Hyperinflated arepa index to break the Bs. 1,000 barrier in order to keep it up with the unmentionable rate, but it was not to be. In my visit to Caracas last week, I “only” paid Bs. 950 for my traditional and delicious arepa de queso de mano at my secret place, which represents a 17% increase from six weeks earlier and a 431% increase from one year ago. This means that if you earn minimum salary today, you can eat 10.15 arepas per month, or about one every three days, not exactly good nutrition…

There were a number of observations during my visit that I think are worth mentioning. Perhaps the most important one is that I noticed a huge difference since early December when I went out at night to eat out. Really huge. I went to a well regarded steak place on Saturday night with my sister and at 8:00 PM there were only three tables full. And this place is huge.

The whole week was like that, no matter where I went. I took a friend, who was visiting from abroad to look at possible ¨change¨ in Venezuela, to an Italian restaurant that I love and when we arrived at 8:15 PM we were the only ones (It was Monday, but I went back on Thursday and it was similar). later two other tables filled up, including one of my coworkers. But that was it.

It repeated every night. Tell a group of Venezuelans my observations and they will argue for a while about whether it is about security or price. Easy, it is both. The parallel rate has gone up maybe 20% since I last visited, but prices at Restaurants have increased 30-40%. And this implies ordering ever cheaper wines, as the offerings become more expensive and of worse quality. At one place, after ordering three wines, none of which were available, I simply said, tell me what you have!

Simple questions become harder to answer. How much do you tip someone who parks your car? If you get Bs. 4 of gas (half a cent in US$) to fill your tank, what do you pay with? I only had a Bs. 20 bill (2 cents in US$), so I just gave it to the guy. Was it too little? Too much? I have no clue, he seemed happy.  I was probably over tipping the Valets at my hotel, at US$ 20 cents (Bs. 200), they seemed to be jumping to help me whenever I showed up.

Sad, very sad…

But not as sad as the scenes at the airport. Whole families come to say good bye to young people leaving. From Grandma, to aunts, sisters, brothers,nannies or whatever, people hold on to them, embracing them with almost despair. They have no idea as to whether they will see them again soon, or ever. I usually get annoyed at people who come to say good bye at airports en masse, but this time was different. I had to show respect. There were many very private/public spectacles full of emotion, my watery eyes were certainly not an allergy.

But I have always been a sentimental fool…

Then the stern cop asked me at the security check point: What do you do in Venezuela and how long will you be gone? I just said I don’t live here now, I live abroad.

No more explanations were required…he even seemed envious…

Sad, very sad…