Mérida, 1st March 2013 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – The Venezuelan government has highlighted social and economic gains made over the previous year in an annual report of government performance.
The report, read out yesterday to the national assembly by vice-president Nicolas Maduro, also drew attention to “serious problems” which the government must tackle in the coming period, chiefly violent crime and corruption in the judicial system.
Maduro also gave a short annual review in mid-January in order to fulfil the constitutional requirements of President Hugo Chavez, who is currently recovering from a cancer operation undergone last December. However, yesterday’s report was more comprehensive, giving a detailed breakdown of the national executive’s performance in 2012 by policy area.
Maduro argued that Venezuela’s social programs were “consolidated” in 2012, due to a large increase in social spending.
According to the report, from 1985 – 1998, the year Chavez was elected president, Venezuela generated US $213 billion in national revenue, of which 36%, US $78 billion, was invested in social spending.
Meanwhile, from 1998 – 2012, US $883 billion in national revenue was accumulated, of which 62%, US $552 billion, was put toward social spending.
Key achievements of this spending in 2012 included the construction of 200,000 housing units for low-income Venezuelans, and increasing the number of elderly receiving a pension through the new Mission Greater Love program to 516,216, the report said.
The Venezuelan vice-president added that in 1998 only 387,000 Venezuelans had been receiving a pension, and that by the end of 2012 this number, between all programs, including Mission Greater Love, had risen to over 2,436,000.
Another achievement mentioned by Maduro was in policies to guarantee food security, where according to the government 96.4% of Venezuelans now eat three meals per day. “According to the FAO [United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation], Venezuela is the country that has done the most to end the problem of hunger,” said the vice-president.
The drafting and signing of a new Labour Law was another gain from 2012 noted in the report.
The annual review also gave a run-down of economic achievements over the previous year, among them GDP growth of 5.5% and reducing unemployment to 6% (December 2012).
Further, formal sector employment grew to 58% of the labour force, up from 45% in 1998, according to official statistics.
Maduro also discussed the “complex” problem of inflation in the Venezuelan economy, which closed at 20% in 2012, a figure he compared with average annual inflation of 52% in the decade before the Chavez government came to power.
He said that the government had made a “great effort” to defend citizens’ spending power against inflation, by increasing the minimum wage above inflation every year apart from 2002, the year the opposition launched a devastating shutdown of the oil industry. In 2012, the government increased the minimum wage by 32%.
Oil minister Rafael Ramirez stated in his contribution to the report that the Bolivarian government’s social achievements had been made possible due to the “capture” of oil revenues by the national government, which before had been “taken from the country”.
He added that the social investment of oil revenues, which make up around 90% of Venezuela’s total export earnings, was a “basic axis” of government policy that would not change.
Finally, the review lauded Venezuela’s achievements at the international level in 2012, which included the country’s entry into Mercosur, its election to the UN Human Rights Council, and Venezuela forming part of the Triumvirate of the Non-Alignment Movement, along with Egypt and Iran.
However, Maduro also drew attention to areas where “serious problems” exist which the government must tackle in the coming period, particularly violent crime and corruption in the judicial system.
With respect to the judicial system, the vice-president urged that, “We must act against the corruption that exists in the judicial system, which creates tremendous impunity in the courts”.
Violent crime was also recognised as a “national problem”. Maduro asked the opposition to stop trying to make political capital out of the situation, claiming that 60% of homicides in Venezuela last year took place in just six federal states, of which five were in opposition hands until last December.
The report also noted government efforts to tackle violent crime, such as raising the number of Bolivarian national police to 14,772, greater training of regional police forces, and seizure of arms and prominent drug traffickers.
The Venezuelan opposition criticised the report as lacking detail, with opposition legislator Angel Rodriguez stating, “It didn’t have the characteristics of an annual report; it was a political speech loaded with automatic repetitions and slogans”.
Rodriguez continued by claiming that “fundamental issues that affect the country were not addressed. It was a disappointment because it doesn’t leave us with material to evaluate the [government] performance over the last year”.
Nevertheless, opposition parliamentarians expressed satisfaction with ministers’ willingness to participate in a special session where assembly legislators could further question the report.
“It would be a good opportunity to cross-examine each minister. These sessions are always convenient because they allow the exposure of details that cannot be given in sessions like yesterday,” said opposition assembly deputy Enrique Marquez earlier today.