In Antwort auf:Abstieg und Zerfall: Wie man es richtig anstellt
February 6th, 2007 by Statler
Given the difficulties of extracting and refining Venezuela’s heavy, sulphurous crude, the nation requires a very high level of investment to keep the petroleum products flowing. So far, this underinvestment has been covered by the grace period between inadequate capital spending and decline, and the high price of oil. But this may not hold for much longer.
Schaut so aus, als ob Hugo Chavez den Niedergang Venezuelas voll und ganz nach dem Lehrbuch für sozialistische Diktatoren gestalten möchte: Konsum statt Investitionen und den Kapitalstock in der Schlüsselindustrie verrotten lassen (und in allen anderen Sektoren natürlich auch). Dann, wenn in drei, vier Jahren die Einnahmen aus der Ölproduktion einbrechen — wohlgemerkt nicht wegen sinkender Ölpreise, sondern weil mit der bis dahin völlig maroden Technologie die Fördermengen zurückgehen — wird natürlich eine imperialistische Verschwörung für die über Venezuela hereinbrechende Armutswelle verantwortlich gemacht. Oder der IMF. Oder die Weltbank. Egal wer, es wird sich schon eine sinistre Organisation finden lassen, die dann in den Mythen der Attacies den Dolchstoß gegen Sankt Hugo führt.
WE HAVE blogged before about Hugo Chavez's diversion of investment funds from PDVSA, the state-owned oil company, to social spending. Given the difficulties of extracting and refining Venezuela's heavy, sulphurous crude, the nation requires a very high level of investment to keep the petroleum products flowing. So far, this underinvestment has been covered by the grace period between inadequate capital spending and decline, and the high price of oil. But this may not hold for much longer:
The 2007 budget is conservatively based on an average price for the Venezuelan basket of $29. But it is also based on average oil production of around 3.4m barrels a day (b/d). Neither of these figures bears much relation to reality and nor does the budget itself. Independent analysts, including OPEC and the International Energy Agency, believe the true production figure to be around 2.5m b/d. To complicate matters further, some of the oil is sold at a discount as part of Mr Chávez's strategy to win influence abroad, and 100,000 b/d is more or less donated to Cuba.
In contrast, total government spending last year was a third higher than originally budgeted. That pattern is likely to be repeated this year. “Quasi-fiscal” or off-budget spending, involving the diversion of oil revenues and the central bank's reserves into funds directly controlled by the president, is large and increasing.
Mr Chávez has a large piggy-bank he can draw on. The forthcoming constitutional reform is likely to strip the central bank of its last vestiges of autonomy. Between them, the bank's reserves and the resources of the National Development Fund total around $50 billion—a similar amount to this year's official budget.
So even if oil prices remain below their 2006 levels, nobody expects the bottom to fall out of the economy this year. But Mr Chávez needs not just to maintain public spending but to increase it if he is to satisfy the popular expectations he has whipped up at home, and to fulfil the pledges of aid he has made to friends abroad. In the past few weeks alone, he has promised to build 200,000 houses in Nicaragua and loan $1 billion to Ecuador, for example.
The economy is showing some signs of strain. The inflation rate, at 17% last year, was the highest in Latin America—even though Venezuela's currency is overvalued. Despite the oil bonanza, the government has run a fiscal deficit in most of Mr Chávez's time in power: this year that deficit may reach 3% of GDP. The president seems to be aware of the problems. He has urged OPEC to cut oil output further, to set a floor for benchmark prices of $50. On January 21st he announced his intention to increase petrol prices for the first time since he came to power. Petrol costs less than 5 cents a litre in Venezuela at the official exchange rate, but raising the price is politically sensitive. The government also plans tax increases. Officials insist that plans to nationalise the telecommunications and electricity industries, announced last month, will not trigger a fall in tax revenues, though opponents doubt that.
The oil price has crept back up over the past fortnight after a sharp fall. It may well rise further. Even if it does not, few expect the benchmark price to fall to its levels of 2003, let alone 1999. But if prices stay at their levels of the past month, some economists believe that Venezuela's economy will struggle.