Ill-conceived plans script Venezuela’s power woes


The economic recession triggered by the drop of oil prices and the El Nino weather phenomenon, which has caused the country’s hydroelectric dams to run low, have combined to bring the once-booming Venezuela to its knee. Venezuela’s revenue, highly dependent on oil exports, has dropped from $80 billion in 2013 to between $20 billion and $25
billion in 2015, according to the International Monetary Fund.
With world’s largest proven oil reserves, Venezuela did not spend on infrastructure projects, but on social welfare, especially on the grassroots, where the socialist government draws huge support.
President Nicolas Maduro has blamed the El Nino weather phenomenon for the lack of rain that has reduced the lakes at Venezuela’s hydroelectric dams to oversized puddles. The dam supplies 70 percent of the country’s electricity. Seventeen other hydroelectric dams are also near critical levels. But had the country diversified the sources of energy, Venezuela would not have a power shortage problem it is reeling under now. Apart from the oil prices and the El Nino, Maduro blames the country’s crisis on an “economic war” waged by
A number of oil exporting countries still use oil in their power grids as they diversify the energy resources to avoid a fix Venezuela has fallen in. For an inexplicable reason, the Venezuelan government has resisted to use crude to
generate electricity— at least as an alternative.
But the opposition, which seeks to oust the socialist government led by Maduro, has a different reading. It said the crisis was due to the failure of an economic model, which has ruined the country, a view shared by many Western countries, notably the US. To address the electricity shortage, Maduro decided to slash the workweek to two days for state employees, close schools on Fridays and ration power for four hours a day in much of the country. The government also imposed four-hour daily electricity blackouts this week on eight regions in the country. Venezuela will turn off the electricity supply in its 10 most populous states for four hours a day for 40 days to deal with the severe power crunch.
Last week, the government also said it was shifting its time zone forward by 30 minutes to save power by adding half an hour of daylight. Worse still, the economic crisis has prompted Venezuelans to queue for hours to buy scarce supplies in shops.
Sadly, the country is left to hope for a lot of rain over the coming weeks to replenish the reservoirs while the restrictions are in place. There was a time it had the capacity to hedge against such crisis, but did not take the right steps and missed the opportunity to bring about cohesive development.
Now, the drastic measures have raised discontent among citizens who are already suffering shortages of medicines and goods such as toilet paper and cooking oil. As the oil was the main source of dollars, Venezuela’s cash-strapped government is unable to meet business demand for the dollars they need to buy goods and materials abroad.
It is ironic that Caracas spent huge part of oil revenues on the disadvantaged categories in Venezuela, but these are the categories hit hard by the drastic measures.

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