Venezuela’s Maduro Targets Major Economic Transformation, Raises Bonuses

The Venezuelan government’s reliance on increases in bonuses instead of wages was nonetheless met with criticism.
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro speaks before the National Assembly during his annual address. (Alba Ciudad)

Mexico City, Mexico, January 16, 2024 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro announced a new large-scale political project for the country focused on a sustainable economic recovery during his annual address to the National Assembly.

“This is about seven transformations, seven goals, for the coming seven years,” said Maduro during his 2023 Memory and Accounts speech to congress on Monday.

The annual address, which in addition to evaluating the previous year’s work, also sets the government’s agenda for the near future, laid out plans to tackle seven key areas as follows: economic modernization, full political independence, safety and security, social issues, political participation, the environment, and geopolitics.

After many years marked by an economic downturn as a result of US sanctions on the country, Maduro announced that 2023 saw a five percent increase in Venezuela’s gross domestic product (GDP).

The Venezuelan economy is expected to continue to lead growth in the region, with the Venezuelan president announcing a target of eight percent GDP growth in 2024. Maduro also highlighted his government’s successful efforts to control inflation

Venezuela’s economy has seen a steady recovery in recent years following changes to the country’s macroeconomic policies in response to the impact of sanctions that severely curtailed the state’s ability to sell its resources on the global market.

“For this reason, each of the results obtained, each goal achieved, must carry the label ‘made, built, designed, created, overcome, in times of war and imperialist blockade,’” declared Maduro.

Last October, the US Treasury Department announced the easing of some of the most restrictive sanctions in response to a political agreement between the Venezuelan government and the opposition that has come to be known as the Barbados Accords. This sanctions loosening is expected to play a significant role in the country’s continued economic recovery.

Maduro called for a modernization of the country’s productive forces, aimed at a diversification of the economy in order to reduce Venezuela’s reliance on oil and the vulnerabilities that creates. 

“We are going to modernize all the methods and techniques of producing national wealth, to consolidate economic diversification in the face of a new export model,” said Maduro.

The Venezuelan president likewise announced a doubling of the country’s “economic war bonus,” a top-up indexed to the US dollar that is paid out to public sector workers to help address a loss in purchasing power due to inflation.

Although the US $30 increase represents a substantial rise in income for workers compared to 2023. Public sector workers now have an income floor of $100 a month, between the $60 economic war bonus and the $40 food subsidy known as cestaticket.

However, the top-up does not represent an increase in formal wages and was met with criticism. Trade unions have pointed out that bonuses are not taken into account to compute a number of labor benefits such as vacation pay, wage scales and severance pay, and thus end up favoring private employers.

In a post on social media, grassroots Venezuelan journalist Luigino Bracci Roa detailed the impact that low wages, which have been frozen since 2022, have had on workers in Venezuela.

“The reality is that those who suffer the most are those who have the least, the ones who have had to go hungry, the ones who have had to resort to peddling, the ones who have suffered medical emergencies in hospitals that have also run out of supplies. The lack of empathy is terrible,” wrote Bracci Roa before also criticizing some government expenditures and the emphasis on bonuses instead of wages.

Foiled Assassination Plots

During his speech to National Assembly deputies, Maduro went on to reveal that in 2023 the government successfully foiled a number of violent plots, including a plan to assassinate the president along with Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino López and other senior officials.

Maduro accused the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) of conspiring against his administration in collaboration with exiled opposition leaders.

“The DEA pulls the strings of the main drug trafficking groups in Colombia, and seeks financing there to conspire against Venezuela,” said Maduro.

According to the Venezuelan president, one plot involved a “sleeper cell” in the country that aimed to assassinate Maduro in his official residence known as La Viñeta, located on the grounds of Fuerte Tiuna in Caracas.

Maduro detailed a series of other foiled subversion plans, including one that was set to take place at the beginning of the year that would have included an attack on a barracks in San Cristóbal in Western Venezuela.

The president said the plots were uncovered by Venezuelan intelligence and subsequently confirmed by those involved who confessed to the conspiracies.

Edited by Ricardo Vaz in Mérida.