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Alarming increase in the inequality gap in Venezuela

Foto: Cortesía UNICEF

A few weeks ago, the results of the latest Living Conditions Survey, ENCOVI, were released presenting alarming figures.

Some of the most significant figures are the drop in more than half a million students in educational enrollment; the reduction of the coverage of the School Feeding Program to only 19% of the school population; the economically active and inactive population were equalized (50% each) and labor informality reached 60%; total poverty and extreme poverty reached historical records (95% and 76.6% respectively). These and other data made Venezuela the most unequal country in the Americas.

Although the ENCOVI 2021 data was collected between February and April of that year and, therefore, records the impact of COVID-19, it is necessary to remember that the pandemic became an emergency within the humanitarian emergency that Venezuela was already suffering, therefore the survey findings cannot be attributed solely to the coronavirus phenomenon. The same presentation of ENCOVI 2021 recalls that part of the context in which these figures must be read is associated with the “Failed creation of a new institutionalism since the approval of the 1999 National Constitution, judging by the lack of relevant, timely and efficient responses to address problems in all areas»[1].

The indicators on the impact of the Complex Humanitarian Emergency collected by HumVenezuela until June 2021, are consistent with the ENCOVI findings. Thus, HumVenezuela recorded a worsening of the collapse of services that was expressed in a 75% deficit in electric power generation capacity, a 95% stoppage of transportation and a 43% drop in natural gas production. In addition, by June 2021, there had been a fall in the real minimum wage of 99.2%, while food self-sufficiency through national production stood at 20%; These indicators in turn have a direct impact on the nutritional levels of the population, so that the number of people living in food insecurity went from 9.3 to 14.3 million inhabitants in one year, which is equivalent to 50% of the population. Indicators such as reduced food portions, undernourishment and protein intake fell worryingly between March 2020 and June 2021.

The so-called missions, which are direct subsidy mechanisms for the poorest population, lack a public policy approach to overcoming poverty. Missions have greatly reduced their coverage. According to ENCOVI data, 75.2% of the population is not beneficiary of any mission. The food supply programs (CLAP) have a coverage of 86% of beneficiaries; however, this is very irregular, in such a way that only 0.2% of the population receives this subsidy on a weekly or biweekly basis, while more than 60% of beneficiaries only access this modality of food supply once per month or quarterly.

The previous indicators show that, in the midst of the worst crisis, the response of the Venezuelan State has been less, increasing the levels of inequity, in contrast to what is established by the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in its General Comment N ° 3 which states that “even in times of severe resource limitations, caused either by the adjustment process, economic recession or other factors, one can and should actually protect vulnerable members of society by adopting of relatively low-cost programs”.

In contrast, 5% of the population lives in what has been called a «bubble», not of well-being, but of extreme opulence, which is reflected in the acquisition of luxury vehicles, consumption of luxury goods in fashion stores and restaurants of international class, among others. Corruption and money laundering have given rise to a tiny elite but with extraordinary purchasing power that marks an abysmal gap with the other 95% of the increasingly poor population.

This is a clear demonstration of the failure of a populist model that sold itself as socialism and was unable – due to corruption and inefficiency – to redistribute the enormous oil revenue obtained during the first decade of the 21st century. In this way, poverty, far from being overcome through long-term public policies, has been exploited as a mechanism of social control.

[1] ENCOVI 2021. Presentación.