Caracas, January 21, 2016 (venezuelanalysis.com) –Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announced Tuesday the creation of the National Council for Productive Economy, a diverse body composed of ministers, private business leaders, governors, mayors, academics, and grassroots representatives tasked with finding solutions to the country’s deepening economic crisis.
According to Maduro, the 45-person commission will “confront the crisis of the rentier model and generate responses that develop the productive forces” in the face of collapsing global oil prices that have devastated the South American country’s international currency reserves.
To this end, the council will consist of nine working groups or “motors” dedicated to the different areas of Venezuela’s economy, including oil and gas, petrochemicals, food and agriculture, information and telecommunications, construction, industry, military industry, tourism, and mining.
Among the members are leading figures in Venezuela’s private sector, including representatives of powerful business lobbies, such as the Federation of Agricultural Producers’ Associations (FEDEAGRO), a long time opponent of the government’s progressive land and seeds legislation.
Also seated at the table is Oswaldo Cisneros of the Cisneros Group telecommunications conglomerate, Alberto Vollmer of the Santa Teresa Rum empire, the construction mogul Luis Van Dam, and Passam Yusef, president of the information technology firm Siragon.
The council additionally includes the governors of Aragua, Tachira, and Lara as well as the heads of the Central Bank, the Guyana Corporation of state enterprises, and the state telephone company CANTV.
The opposition governor of Lara state, Henry Falcon, defended his participation in the commission after party members accused him of “switching sides”.
“These are times to push aside the ideological rhetoric with the aim of seeking real solutions to the problems prioritized by Venezuelans!” the Chavista-turned-opposition governor stated via his Twitter account.
Other stakeholders on the council include Wills Rangel of the United Oil Workers’ Federation as well as representatives of communal enterprises, such as the Hugo Chávez Direct Social Enterprise and the Integral Producers of the Páramo.
Meeting for the first time on Wednesday, the committee is jointly chaired by Executive Vice-President Aristóbulo Istúriz and Vice-President for Economy Luis Salas, both of whom recently assumed their posts as part of President Maduro’s cabinet shake-up earlier this month.
The new body will be in charge of jumpstarting production in difficult conditions; the oil-dependent economy contracted by 10% last year and is slated for further downturn in the face of the lowest oil prices in over a decade.