Aw yeah boys and girls, 2019 is the year were the Venezuelan government turns the tide. This is going to be the year of our definitive economic recovery! Our Worker-President, Driver of Victories, and Son of Chavez said so!
At last, after a decade riddled with so many calamities (with the past six being a complete nightmare) our Worker-President guarantees us us that this is it, this is going to be the year where we—hold on, wait a minute. I have a strange feeling.
Déjà vu? I’ve just been in this place before, higher on the street, and I know it’s my time to go…
Maybe it’s just me overthinking stuff, I don’t know…
Could it be that…no…impossible…
Yeah, I’m noticing a pattern here…
Ah come on now…
New year, same old promises.
For what it’s worth, people are slowly realizing the fact that we get fed the same headlines every year, and every year has been worse than the one before. But in any case, will this year be the year? Will Maduro do in 2019 what he has been promising (and failing to do) for the past six years? Will this be the year of our recovery? Hah! No.
Only fourteen days into 2019 and we already got slammed with yet another minimum wage raise—a 300% increase this time. From 4,500 Sovereign Bolivares (450,000,000) to 18,000 (1,800,000,000) per month. This raise stems from the fact that our monthly minimum wage is anchored to the Petro cryptocurrency, which has been raised in price by the government. (Yes, you can’t mine this crypto and they determine its value; that’s totally how a crypto should work, right?)
These raises are now part of a Venezuelan’s unending torment; every two to three months you feel the collective anguish and despair that these minimum wage raises incur because you just know what comes with them—they’re just gasoline being poured onto an inextinguishable fire. It’s gotten so bad that the government is subtly pushing the narrative that these constant raises have no influence on our hyperinflation.
As soon as a minimum wage raise is announced everyone (myself included) flocks to their nearest supermarkets in an attempt to stock on whatever you can before the inevitable increases in prices. Yesterday, I went to grab some groceries; conceptualize my lack of amazement when most of the price tags were being removed and/or replaced. The cheese my brother loves so much has already doubled in price in just a week.
Six years of economic recovery plans, each with their own names and adjectives, and yet, they’re all essentially the same thing (and thus, have accrued the same disastrous results) but nope, the government continues to brute force the same tactics over and over and over again.
Rest in Peace, Sovereign Bolivar
Oh, Sovereign Bolivar, you had a good run—wait I can’t even finish this sentence with a straight face, let alone concoct a joke about it, this is kinda depressing. I was planning to at least wait for its sixth month to talk about it but well.
Our shinning new currency didn’t even made it that far before it was obliterated by hyperinflation; hell, it didn’t even made it out of 2018 alive.
For all intents and purposes, this new currency, hailed as the spearhead of our 2018 economic recovery plan is dead, it’s done for, poof, it’s dust. For those that need a refresher, Sovereign Bolivares are just the same thing but with five fewer zeroes (down to the banknotes just being recolors of the previous Bolivar Fuerte series).
Paper cash shortages are back in full force. There was never enough pieces of Sovereign notes to go around in the first place. The lower end of these notes (Bs.2, 5, 10, 20) have lost any sort of practical use (to the point that public transport has starting to stop receiving them because they see it as nothing but a nuisance).
Here we are, five months since their introduction and most of the Sovereign family is dead. The Bs.50 and 100 notes are barely hanging by a thread. The two new coins? I never got to see them, their purchasing power didn’t even lasted a week. Most banks only allow you to withdraw around 3,000 in cash (if you’re lucky), however 3,000 isn’t enough to buy a lunch these days.
Debit card and wire transfers continue to be the driving force of our monetary transactions. Credit card limits are severely behind the curve now, the average credit card limit is around Bs.S.500 ($0.16), this however, is allegedly posed to change within the next days.
If the new limits are relatively acceptable then credit cards could once again be the premier (and sometimes a hyperinflation life vest) choice for paying for stuff, since by the time you’re finished off paying the debt those bolivares are worth exponentially less.
In short, the 2018 economic plan was yet another dud in a series of failed iterations of the same economic malpraxis (to no one’s surprise). When the Sovereign notes were launched on August 2018 our minimum wage was set at Bs.S.1,800 per month, at the time this was equal to approximately $30.00, today, our new minimum wage (ten times the amount) is only worth a fifth of that, and it only took five months in order to achieve such a feat.
Requiescat in pace, Bolivar Soberano.
If there was any doubt that 2019 would be any different for Venezuela well, nope, business as usual I guess. Wake up and smell the ashes. But hey, I’m pretty sure that 2020 will be the year of our economic recovery—and the year of the Linux desktop as well!