‘There is no wealth to distribute’: Venezuela poverty rate surges

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Venezuela’s poverty rate surged in 2019 to levels unmatched elsewhere in Latin America as the once-prosperous oil producing nation’s hyperinflationary economic collapse continued for a sixth-straight year, according to a new study.

The 2019-20 National Survey of Living Conditions (ENCOVI), conducted by researchers at Andres Bello Catholic University (UCAB) and published on Tuesday, found that 64.8 percent of Venezuelan households experienced “multidimensional poverty” in 2019, a measure that takes into account income as well as access to education and public services, among other factors.

That was 13.8 percent higher than the 51 percent figure recorded in 2018, the biggest one-year jump since the survey began in 2014. The country’s crude exports – the main source of government revenue in the socialist country – fell by a third to their lowest levels in 75 years in 2019.

When measured solely by income levels, some 96 percent of the population lives in poverty, a figure unmatched elsewhere in the region and comparable to poor African countries like Nigeria or Chad, the ENCOVI survey found.

“There is no wealth to distribute,” said Pedro Luis Espana, a UCAB sociologist who contributed to the study. “The rise in poverty in Venezuela does not have to do with inequality. The problem has been the abrupt fall in economic output.” Venezuela’s information ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the findings.

President Nicolas Maduro’s government frequently blames United States sanctions for the country’s woes, but critics attribute the country’s crisis to his government’s economic mismanagement.

With rampant inflation leaving the local bolivar currency nearly worthless, Venezuelans’ average income was just 72 US cents per day. “We have left the Latin American context,” Espana said. The survey was conducted through questionnaires distributed to 9,932 households between November 2019 and March 2020.

Venezuela has for years been embroiled in a political and economic crisis that has left the once-wealthy nation impoverished amid shortages of basic goods, soaring inflation and a broken healthcare system.

Despite sitting atop the world’s largest crude oil reserves, Venezuela does not produce enough domestically-refined petrol and has seen its overall crude production plunge to the lowest in more than 70 years amid the continuing crisis and fallout from US sanctions.

Currently, the South American nation is struggling with the coronavirus pandemic and an economic meltdown that has seen about five million Venezuelans flee since 2015.

SOURCE: REUTERS NEWS AGENCY

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