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May 3, Author: Pundit Planet Filed under: Venezuela is not the first developed country to put itself on track to fall into a catastrophic economic crisis.
But it is in the relatively unusual situation of having done so while in possession of enormous oil assets. Venezuela has been ailing ever since the decline in oil prices that started in Juneand there is no reason to think this trend will shift anytime soon.
Energy prices move in long quarter-century circles of one decade of high prices and one decade of low prices, so another decade of low prices is likely.
Similarly, the biggest economic blow to the Soviet Union was the fall in oil prices that started in and got worse from there. The math seemed to work out, so they just assumed there was a good reason.
This is as true of the current Venezuelan leaders as it was of the Soviet leaders. It has insisted for years on maintaining drastic price controls on a wide range of basic goods, including food staples such as meat and bread, for which it pays enormous subsidies.
But as the oil price has fallen by slightly more than half since mid, oil incomes have fallen accordingly. And rather than increase oil production, the Venezuelan government has been forced to watch it decline because of its mismanagement of the dominant state-owned oil company, PDVSA.
And now Venezuela seems intent on repeating the Soviet folly of the late s by refusing to change course. This is allowing the budget deficit to swell and putting the country on track toward ultimate devastation. The Soviet Union in its latter years had a skyrocketing budget deficit, too.
Venezuela is now following suit.
The Soviet Union used its currency reserves to pay for imports, but when those reserves shrank, the government financed the budget deficit by printing money. The inevitable result was skyrocketing inflation. Venezuela already is dealing with massive shortages as a result of its controlled prices, because the government can no longer afford its own subsidies.
But it will get worse from here. Maduro seems intent on printing money like crazy, so the next step will be hyperinflation.
Inflation is already believed to have reached percent a year, and it is heading toward official hyperinflation, that is, an inflation rate of at least 50 percent a month. Hyperinflation is as frightful as it is rare. According to Johns Hopkins University professor Steve Hankethe world has experienced only 56 hyperinflations, and half of them occurred when communism collapsed.
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