• A version of this post ran on the author's blog, Caracas Chronicles. The views expressed are the author's own.
For those of us living in Venezuela, you only need a short stroll to your local market to see the current state of our economy. However, there’s always the need to have some sort of statistical confirmation.
Too bad the Central Bank (BCV) has stopped reporting on some of those important numbers in the last few months, at least publicly.
What started last December with an unusual twenty-day delay in the release of the November inflation rate has turned into a complete blackout of information. The last BCV report on inflation was from May. Yes, there have been alleged leaks on the June and July numbers, but the BCV has neither confirmed nor denied them.
Those are not the only figures being kept under wraps. The last scarcity rate report is from March, and no recent gross domestic product (GDP) or balance of payments numbers have been released either. Many economists are complaining that the BCV, along with the Finance Ministry and the National Statistics Institute (INE), are keeping official statistics hidden in recent years, making difficult to analyze the state of our economy.
What’s the response of the central government to all of this? In three words: NO. BIG. DEAL.
PSUV Deputy Ricardo Sanguino, who is the head of the National Assembly’s Finance Commission, said that the BCV doesn’t have any legal mandate to release those indicators in a certain deadline. They can do so whenever they please.
But the Central Bank is still considering alternatives. [Last] month, there were reports that both the BCV and the INE would change the methodology to measure inflation from the currently used Laspeyres index to the Paasche index. Also, the newest member of the BCV board of directors, Sohail Hernández, has allegedly proposed to stop releasing the indicators. Instead, those who are interested in knowing those figures would have go to the BCV in person and formally request them.
As we enter a new month with no major changes to the government’s economic policies [Note: there was a shakeup in cabinet members on Tuesday], the official line of blocking access to public information is still on the march. Now, it comes with the approval from the highest court in the land.
– Gustavo Hernandez Acevedo is a writer for Caracas Chronicles, the place for opposition-leaning-but-not-insane analysis of the Venezuelan political scene since 2002