Business & Economy

Extensive poverty persists amid Venezuelan economic growth

By Hector Pereira

Caracas, Oct 17 (EFE).- In Venezuela, which in 2022 has enjoyed the greatest economic growth in its recent history, 90 percent of the public lives in poverty, an estimate that – experts say – is expected to improve a bit this year but not by much, given that currently multiple factors still suggest continued deprivation for most of the people.

The country with the world’s largest proven petroleum reserves on Monday is celebrating the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty beset by an economic gap that will be difficult to span by 2030, the year when the United Nations forecasts that the problem exacerbated by six years of recession in Venezuela, currency devaluation and four years of hyperinflation, among other difficulties, will be resolved.

Prof. Maria Gabriela Ponce said that Venezuela is experiencing “a crisis in all areas of social life, which obviously ends up creating significant impacts in people’s living conditions,” most of them currently unable to pay for their most basic needs.

While the country is hailing four consecutive quarters of economic growth, poverty remains so pervasive that the UN approved a humanitarian response plan in the hope this year of supporting 5.2 million Venezuelans who find themselves in extreme circumstances, with estimates being that these are the people most in need of urgent help.

Some 94 percent of Venezuela’s population lives below the poverty line, of whom 76.6 percent are destitute, according to measurements made in 2021 by the Andres Bello Catholic University (UCAB).

Ponce, who is part of the research team that makes these measurements, told EFE that Venezuela’s economic chaos “has no (instruction) manual” and constitutes, as human rights organizations say, a complex humanitarian emergency amid which “it’s not enough to set one thing right (since) it’s evident across the board.”

Thus, she said that it’s necessary to look at all the various elements including livability, education, social protection and other things to gain a greater understanding of Venezuela’s nationwide poverty.

Estimates show that 65 percent of the country’s households are getting by without even the minimum elements needed, “at the extreme where all the bad things coincide,” she said.

The methodology, she said, “tends to focus on the most severe poverty … (and) finds that there are multiple privations in the home,” affecting six of every 10 Venezuelans.

A third of the population (mostly retirees and public workers) is mired in extreme poverty receiving about $15 per month in a country where one needs about $500 per month to pay for basic expenses.

Impoverishment in Venezuela has been “so generalized that people who in any other context, with what they’ve achieved, should not be poor” actually are, in particular people over age 60 who have spent their lives working, something that Ponce says distinguishes Venezuela’s national crisis.

“If there’s one group in particular that has suffered the blows of this it’s the elderly adult population,” she said after noting that this age group in other countries “usually has lower levels of poverty because it has some accumulated savings,” but in Venezuela the currency devaluation and inflation have dissolved all retirement plans.

“We’re processing (the survey) for 2022. I hope we have good news on that score,” she added, forecasting that the report should come out in November letting the country see where it stands in terms of poverty.

EFE hp/sb/eat/bp

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