Mérida, 3rd November 2014 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – The administration of President Nicolas Maduro has begun an operation to ensure plentiful stocks and affordable prices in the run up to Christmas.
Dubbed the “Happy Christmas 2014 Plan”, authorities opened Christmas fairs around the country at the weekend, which will offer food and other goods at “fair prices” until 24 December. Around 80% of offered products are produced nationally.
Further, the government’s “My Well Equipped House” program has been reactivated, through which thousands of household appliances and white goods will be sold to consumers at up to 60% below market price.
“This is President Maduro’s present to the Venezuelan people this Christmas: or one of them, because the great present is peace in Venezuela,” said Trade Minister Isabel Delgado on Sunday.
In addition to being a time of cultural and religious importance in the South American country, Christmas is a period of increased consumption in Venezuela, when families seek to stock up on typical foods, presents, and spend their Christmas bonuses on new goods.
The idea behind the government’s operation is to help all Venezuelans access seasonal foods and other products at affordable prices, especially in the context of the product shortages and high inflation which have been experienced this year.
Officials argue that the problems are due to an “economic war” through which individuals and businesses speculate on prices, hoard goods, or smuggle them to Colombia to escape Venezuelan price controls.
Opponents blame what they call economic mismanagement or “excessive” state intervention for the situation. There has also been speculation as to whether the falling price of oil will affect debt or import obligations; however the government insists that its budget is already based on a conservative estimate of income from oil sales.
Authorities will also monitor private sector retailers over the Christmas period to try and prevent widespread price speculation and the flouting of regulations which set maximum price and profit margins. Food, clothes, shoes, toys, white goods and hardware are priority items for inspection. The government’s Christmas fairs will reportedly utilise fingerprint technology to prevent speculators buying up the discounted goods in bulk to later re-sell for a profit.
“This operation isn’t a policy to attack anyone, nor to persecute. We aren’t asking any business to work at a loss: what we won’t permit is for them to speculate with Venezuelans’ salaries,” said President Maduro at the weekend.
In addition, public police presence will be increased over the season as part of citizen safety measures.