Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has announced a slew of policy reforms aimed at combating speculation and hoarding. New government institutions are also being created to regulate trade and oversee foreign currency exchange.
“We have to make real decisions for the benefit of the economy and society, whatever the cost and whatever happens,” Maduro said on November 6.
Describing the package of reforms as an “economic offensive”, Maduro pledged to “strike hard” at speculators and hoarders.
He said a new national taskforce was being created to inspect businesses across the country to complement current efforts by the government's consumer protection agency Indepabis to identify hoarders.
Venezuelan consumers have been hit with shortages of products ranging from milk to toilet paper in recent months. The opposition has blamed government policy, but Maduro has pointed to businesses that allegedly hoard goods for political reasons.
Indepabis launched a nationwide crackdown against hoarders and speculators earlier this year. Many businesses were slapped with penalties by the consumer watchdog.
Maduro said: “We are going to review the entire supply chain. We are going to check every inventory in the country.”
Maduro also issued new warnings to the head of the Venezuelan Federation of Chambers of Commerce (Fedecamaras), Jorge Roig, who he accused of being involved in an “economic war”.
Former Fedecamaras president Pedro Carmona declared himself head of state for two days in 2002 during a coup that temporarily ousted Maduro's predecessor, the late Hugo Chavez. Relations between the government and Fedecamaras never recovered.
On October 21, pro-government trade unions marched through Caracas to protest against the business federation's alleged activities.
“I have evidence; Jorge Roig directs the economic warfare,” Maduro said.
The president also revealed plans to further expand Mission Mercal, which sells heavily subsidised food to the Venezuelan public. Maduro said his administration aims to have a Mercal covering every workplace.
Since the mission was established in 2003, more than 16,600 Mercal outlets have sprouted nationwide. According to government statistics, the state-owned chain has provided more than 12 million tonnes of subsidised food to more than 10 million Venezuelans.
This year, the government extended the mission by creating the Workers' Mercal program, initially expected to supply 14 basic products to around 23,000 public sector workers in 32 institutions.
Mauro also announced the creation of the National Corporation for Domestic Trade Logistics and Transport Services, which will be tasked with improving domestic distribution of goods.
He said the corporation will develop a service network for transport operators across the country, including roadside rest stops and maintenance facilities. He also announced the import of 5000 new trucks from China and Brazil.
He said the vehicles will be imported by the state to improve “the entire public and private system”. Maduro called on private logistics companies to cooperate with the initiative.
[Abridged from Venezuela Analysis.]