Venezuela: Fresh moves against 'parasitic capitalists'

Venezuelan President has Nicolas Maduro announced a raft of new regulatory measures as part of his ongoing “offensive” to deal with the country’s economic problems.

In a television interview on December 1, Maduro said the government’s economic policies were aimed at “stabilising” the economy in order to be able to develop a “productive” economic model.

This year, Venezuela has experienced shortages in several basic food and household goods, a black market dollar worth ten times the government-set exchange rate, and annual inflation of 54%.

The government says these problems are the product of an “economic war” being waged by business sectors and the right-wing opposition. A central part of the government’s response is to crack down on abuse of currency controls and cut the value of the black market dollar, which is creating pricing distortions.

Maduro attacked the illegal business practice of requesting official rate dollars and then selling these dollars on the black market for a profit, or importing goods and then selling them for far higher than the import price.

He said: “Only one sector does this: the parasitic capitalists ...which we’re now going to reveal to the country and punish with the law.”

A presidential commission will be created with parliamentary legislators and public attorneys, who will identify and investigate companies that have abused state-granted dollars.

Maduro said that companies will now have to sign public pledges to be able to receive official-rate dollars. Products imported with these dollars will be marked with a new green label, to guarantee that “they are products imported with the dollars of the republic and can reach the consumer at a fair price”.

A new register of small and medium businesses has been set up which excludes companies that have previously abused currency controls from being able to access state-granted dollars. Maduro said these are part of an effort to “transform” the currency control system, which is now overseen by the new National Centre of Foreign Trade.

Another measure to bolster Venezuela’s currency, taken by the Central Bank, is to force banks to offer interest rates on saving accounts of at least 16%, up from 12.5% previously.

It is hoped citizens will be encouraged to save more rather than immediately converting income into goods or foreign currencies as a means of conserving the bolivar’s value.

Maduro reiterated his commitment to tackling Venezuela’s oil-rentier economic model. He said: “There won’t be socialism on a rentier, speculative, capitalist economic base. Socialism has to be constructed on the basis of labour, on real productive bases, on the generation of new wealth, on an economy fed by its own resources.”

[Abridged from Venezuela Analysis.]

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