Why Venezuela Crisis? Venezuela is an oil-rich country in South America. For years it has been surviving on oil exploration, which is under the state government. But the country has been under economic stress for quite some time now. The reason being the international fall in oil prices that subsequently resulted in a decrease in revenue. It created a downward spiral for the country because of which the social and welfare schemes took a major hit.
As of today, Venezuela is facing hyperinflation (a constant increase in prices of commodities at a very high rate). There is a shortage of food and medicines. People are suffering from severe malnutrition and a lack of basic health care facilities. People are migrating to other countries because of poverty, shortage of basic necessities, hyperinflation, and failing public services.
The opposition is supported by other countries, including the USA, and blames the present government for its situation. There are clashes between opposition supporters and pro-government forces. Leader of opposition Juan Guaidó wants president Nicolás Maduro to cede power and has called for series of strikes. But Maduro is backed by countries like Russia and China along with leaders of the Venezuela military and has openly refused to relinquish power.
What is the Dutch disease phenomenon?
Venezuela is also suffering from the Dutch disease phenomenon. Dutch disease defines a paradox in which the economy is booming with increased revenues due to the discovery or development of natural resources, but there is a decline in manufacturing, etc. There is an inflow of foreign currency because of the discovery of oil reserves. It leads to local currency appreciation, making exports of other products costlier. Market become saturated with imported goods.
Venezuela was the founding father of OPEC (Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) in 1960. Oil prices fell to as low as $30 per barrel in 2016. Venezuela became a perfect example of failed petrostate. Petrostates can be defined as a state with a weak public sector, a State that undermines democracy. Poor governance, lack of economic diversification, no other mechanism of productive investment where government income is totally dependent upon the export of oil in a resource-rich country. Petrostate is vulnerable to dutch disease because of an unhealthy dependence on the export of oil. As a result, the economy is too much dependant upon unpredictable global prices. They rely on resource income rather than on taxes.
How to avoid?
To avoid a situation like the Venezuela Crisis, a State should have functional political institutions before discovering a resource because if a country strikes oil or another resource before it develops state infrastructure, it becomes a curse. Moreover, oil earnings should be used in a responsible way that generates long-term growth. Otherwise, the country can slip into poverty, as in the case of Venezuela. Since the oil industry is under government control, there can be constant fights about who will control the oil revenues, and instances of rent-seeking and concentration of power can ultimately lead to rampant corruption.
To end the Venezuela crisis and bring the country out of its misery, foreign actors can play a major role. As of now, they should not behave like bystanders but should come up with a mechanism to bring back the peace; otherwise, they may face the ripples of its economic crisis.
Venezuela should be a prosperous country. Instead, it is gripped in a deep crisis. Critics of president Nicolás Maduro even joke about being on the “Maduro diet.”
President Maduro, who belongs to the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, is the current leader of Venezuela. He began his second term in January 2019, which is seen as illegitimate by many Venezuelans and members of the international community.
Thereby Venezuela is immersed in a political crisis where two rival politicians ( other being Juan Guaidó ) claim to be the country’s legitimate leader; as a result, the country is in economic crisis. It increased the crime rate and inflation. The situation is made worse by Western sanctions [ US sanctions due to the disputed 2018 presidential election. ]
The opposition did not recognize Maduro’s re-election. Under such circumstances and citing articles in the constitution, the leader of the National Assembly, Juan Guaidó, declared himself acting president.
Many countries recognize Guaidó as the legitimate president; among them are the US and nations in Latin America. But Russia and China, along with others, are with President Maduro. Besides the support, Mr. Guaidó does not have much power in practical terms.
Maduro has blamed the USA for ruling the country from afar. He has criticized the USA for sanctions on Venezuela’s state oil company.
As per UN reports, over 90 percent of the country was living in poverty in 2019, and many million fleeing or other places in Latin America. The economic crisis is further fuelled due to the pandemic. As per a study report, three in every four are living under extreme poverty. Due to hyperinflation, the local currency is useless. There are food and medicine shortages and electricity blackouts. The poorest are unable to find work and are hardest hit, as making a living becomes difficult.