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Venezuela with finances on the ground, according to the latest balance sheet of the Maduro era

The Latin American country is in an unsustainable economic situation
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AFP/PRESIDENCIA DE VENEZUELA/MARCELO  -   The President of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro

Venezuela receives 98.6% less income than in 2013, the year in which Nicolás Maduro became president, according to the president himself, who explained on Tuesday in his annual message, a report full of economic data that lays bare the ruin in which the country finds itself.

"We have gone from having more than 50,000 million dollars (56,609 million) in 2013 to having barely 743 million in 2020," the president said before the National Assembly (NA, Parliament), which has a clear majority in favour of the government.

In his report on the exercise of power in 2020, the president also admitted that unemployment and poverty had increased, although the margins presented are much lower than non-governmental estimates, according to which the vast majority of Venezuelans live in misery.

Less oil, less money

Maduro also acknowledged that the pumping of the state-owned oil company PDVSA fell by 69 percent between 2015 and 2019, a phenomenon that led the Caribbean country to lose revenue of $102.5 billion.

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AP/ARIANA CUBILLOS - Citizens at bus station in Caracas, Venezuela

The president presented a graph stating that by March 2015 Venezuela was producing 2,817,000 barrels of oil per day. He did not indicate how many barrels per day PDVSA currently produces, but he did say that the country had stopped pumping more than 2,153 million barrels of crude oil "for refining and export".

According to data from the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), which cites secondary sources, the country pumped 339,000 barrels of crude oil per day last August.

Sanctions, punishments for all

Referring to the international sanctions that have been imposed on Venezuela in recent years, Maduro said that these "have not only affected the state and the nation" but have also "disrupted the operations of many local and foreign companies".

"The insane policy of (U.S. President) Donald Trump towards Venezuela has inflicted enormous damage on numerous foreign companies that did business with and in Venezuela, companies in the oil sector, bond holders, investors, industries, among others," he said.

He stressed that the restrictive measures, especially those issued from Washington, have destroyed Venezuela's ability to pay, which has accumulated a three-year suspension of payments, something that has affected Venezuelan foreign debt holders, most of them US citizens, who "have lost $77 billion" over the years.

"These, and no other, are the reasons for the brutal economic contraction of this period", he stressed, referring to the almost 30 quarters of consecutive fall in gross domestic product (GDP) so far.

Poverty and unemployment

"General poverty is 17% and extreme poverty is 4%, if it is a question of housing, health, education, etc.," continued the ruler, and then clarified that the results of these indicators in the year 2020 are not yet available.

These data contrast with those of the National Survey of Living Conditions (Encovi), carried out by the country's leading universities, which put the indicator for that year at 96% for poverty in general and 79.3% for extreme poverty.

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AFP/FEDERICO PARRA - People walk past a gas station with a sign that says "No Gas"

Unemployment was 8.8%, two points higher than in 2019. In addition, Maduro explained, there has also been "a reduction in formal work from 59.3 to 56.1 per cent, and (growth) in informal work from 40.7 to 43.9 per cent".

He said these are "wounds" that "force" the government to multiply the forms of protection for families through bonuses since, as he acknowledged, the minimum wage that Venezuelans receive does not correspond to economic reality.

According to the exchange rate of the Central Bank of Venezuela (BCV), the minimum monthly wage is less than one dollar.

Impact of the pandemic

Apart from the economic data, Maduro was pleased for more than an hour with his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country, considering that his Executive took measures that today have one of the lowest official balances in the world, in terms of deaths from this disease.

"We were the first country in the world and I was the first president in the world to wear a mask. That has been one of our best weapons in this battle we have fought," he said.

The president also highlighted the "success" of the method he has applied to "energise" the economy in the midst of the pandemic, which he has called "7+7", a system he plans to propose to the World Health Organisation (WHO) for replication around the world.

To top it off, he announced that "very soon" 10 million doses of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine will arrive in Venezuela to prevent the coronavirus, a pandemic that has left 117,299 infections and 1,078 deaths in more than 300 days.