Social Issues

Experts: Venezuela must address structural problems affecting basic services

By Genesis Carrero Soto

Caracas, Aug 18 (EFE).- The lack of public services in Venezuela is a structural problem that stems from inadequate maintenance and a lack of investment outlays to modernize old and deteriorating infrastructure, according to experts, who say a solution is needed that goes beyond mere crisis management.

President Nicolas Maduro recently set a goal of restoring water, electricity, gas and telecommunications services in the South American nation before year’s end.

And although Venezuelans tired of hearing excuses for why those basic services are lacking will believe it when they see it, the non-governmental organization Cedice says that during the first six months of 2022 the gap between budgeted and actual utility expenditures was relatively low.

The problem, they say, is where that money is spent.

Cedice says that in July investments were targeted at “incident resolution” and that in the case of electricity “just 5 percent of spending went toward improving coverage, quality and supply continuity.”

That NGO’s coordinator of public services monitoring, Raul Cordoba, told Efe there is little chance Maduro will be able to make good on his promise but that some improvements are still possible.

“There’s work to do that I believe won’t be fully finished in four months, five months; however, between now and December a slight improvement” should occur, he said.

Venezuela’s Water Ministry says the government has resolved 19,260 problems with service over the past 60 days, or 59.2 percent of the reported cases.

Nevertheless, experts say solely focusing on continuity of service and de-emphasizing or neglecting indicators like quality or level of coverage will make any progress unsustainable.

“What are we doing? At this time we’re maintaining (service), trying to use that money to ensure electrical continuity, water continuity, public transport continuity,” said Cordoba, who explained that meeting goals related to other indicators would require “two years or a bit more.”

Many Venezuelans feel they have already been waiting too long.

“We feel like we’re forgotten,” says Augusto Dominguez, a community leader in eastern Caracas’ upper middle-class Colinas de La Trinidad district, referring to the lack of water, telecommunications and electricity service in his sector.

Dominguez and his neighbors recently counted 1,000 consecutive days without water, a nearly three-year period in which they unsuccessfully sought to make their voices heard through demonstrations and on social media.

Yet despite those difficulties, the residents of that community realize they are relatively privileged, since they can afford to have water delivered by cistern trucks or purchase power generators.

By contrast, people in low-income districts have no choice but to walk several kilometers to obtain water or light a candle to illuminate their homes at night.

Like many other Venezuelans, Dominguez has learned to accept that his phone has no dial tone, no water flows through his pipes, the streets of his neighborhood are dark and his home has no Internet service.

While he has no expectations for sudden improvements, he is holding out hope that changes will eventually come that elevate his own standard of living and that of his family and the country he calls home. EFE


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