Mérida, January 17th 2011 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – In the National Assembly and around the country on Saturday people in their homes and in plazas listened to president Hugo Chavez’s 7 hour annual speech summarising the government’s management, achievements, and obstacles in 2010 and making projections for this year.
The Venezuelan constitution states in article 237 that the president of the country, within ten days of the installment of the National Assembly, must personally address the assembly about the achievement of national objectives and account for the government’s administration for the past year.
Speaking to the legislators, with the opposition having a substantial number of seats in the new national assembly, Chavez asked them to “maintain dialogue and respect with the people” and said he was happy to see the opposition in parliament again.
During the 2006-2010 National Assembly session the opposition was practically not represented at all because they had boycotted the 2005 legislative elections.
Enabling law could be withdrawn by 1 May
In response to international mainstream media and opposition criticism, Chavez argued that the Enabling law passed last month by the outgoing National Assembly is justified and that the opposition criticises everything and “don’t consider reason…I need …to be able to act quickly to the… rains and housing [situation],” he said.
“[The opposition] goes around saying [the government] is a dictatorship, in five months we can create the laws to deal with all the emergencies, we have almost 120,000 people still in refuges.”
“We could be finished by 1 May, so that nobody feels limited, I could withdraw the enabling law, I’m going to work harder and quicker,” he said. The outgoing National Assembly had given Chavez an enabling law that allows him to pass laws by decree for 18 months.
Looking back on 2010 the president remembered that bank fraud “obliged” the state to intervene in four private banks, and that the government created the Bicentenary bank.
Following the recession over the last two years, Chavez said there were encouraging indications for this year and a predicted economic growth of 2%.
“I thank the private sector. Most of the private sector works hard…[we should] work together and increase national production,” he said.
Also last year external debt was reduced. According to Chavez it was 20.17% of GDP, compared to in 1988 when it was 80%.
Housing is a priority this year for the government, “I accept that we’ve been held back by the historical problem of housing in Venezuela, so we’re going to take measures, because housing isn’t merchandise but rather a right of all Venezuelans,” Chavez said.
“We’re far from the goal but we’re heading towards it… in Fuerte Tiuna we’re going to create a big city with at least 40,000 apartments, and in the centre of Caracas we’re constructing another 20,000 apartments.”
He also announced the government’s commitment to constructing 150,000 houses this year and 200,000 in 2012.
Technology and communications
In 2010 over a million people were trained in computing in the internet Infocentros, Chavez said. Domestic access to the internet increased by 242,993 homes last year, for a total of 1,351,269 connections, an increase of 22%. This translates to 33% of the population with access to internet in their homes, compared to 3% before Chavez was elected.
The “Canaima” plan of providing school children with mini laptops saw 875,000 computers given to first and second grade students, and the Venezuelan president said that this year the government is projecting to hand out 500,000 laptops to third grade students.
In 2010 the government expanded the state’s satellite network, installing 728 satellite antennas. “The antennas are being produced thanks to a project presented by some university students,” Chavez said.
Landline phone installations increased by 20%, and Chavez argued that this “democratisation” of access to telecommunications was thanks to the nationalisation of the communication company CANTV.
“CANTV is a company that continues to be efficient and provide better service than before it was nationalised,” he said.
Further, the state mobile phone manufacturing company Vetelca produced 160,000 phones in 2010. The production aim for this year is 1.5 million phones, through the creation of two more production lines.
Last year there was also the electrical crisis, mostly due to severe drought in 2009. Chavez said that as a result, the government replaced 70 million light bulbs with the electricity saving kind, allowing for a total savings of over 1000 megawatts.
Chavez announced the approval of a food plan to increase national production. He said the country currently has two months of basic foods in reserve and the state is supplying 32% of the national food network, with an aim of increasing that to 50-60% this year.
“This is because the distribution of food can’t be a big profit business, it just can’t be,” Chavez said.
He also said nationalised companies had been producing better results, with Pronutrico producing 748 tonnes per month of precooked cornmeal before the state intervened in December 2009, and now it produces 4,791 tonnes per month. The production of Diana oil increased from 1,535 tonnes in July 2008 to 4,756 tonnes in November last year.
The government also built 13 of the 16 milk plants it had agreed to build with Iran, and 8 of the 10 corn plants. Also, in an agreement with Belarus, the government invested $55 million in a truck and tractor factor, which Chavez said should be in operation by the second half of this year, and producing 10,000 trucks and 5,000 tractors annually.
Crime and other issues
Chavez said that in its first year of existence last year, the National Bolivarian Police “together with organised communities achieved a reduction of 44% of murders”. The police force began with 952 officers, and now, in a year, it has grown to 4,222 officers, according to Chavez.
“The Bolivarian National Police is a new, serious, and human policing model,” he said.
He also recognised the solid waste problem and the need to increase rubbish collection capacity. “I assume my responsibility for [this] but it’s really a problem of the local governments,” he said.