Venezuela’s pro-people transformation continues


Richard Moore

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Venezuela's pro-people transformation continues

Stuart Munkcton
3 August 2007

As part of the expansion of the pro-poor social programs ‹ known as ³missions² ‹
promoted by the government of socialist President Hugo Chavez, reported on July 26 that Chavez had announced plans for the
construction of 15 new hospitals. The article reports that building new 
hospitals, along with the transformation of run-down existing public hospitals, 
make up the third and fourth stage of one of the government¹s best known and 
most successful missions ‹ Barrio Adentro (³Into the Neighbourhood²).

Barrio Adentro began with the construction of thousands of popular health-care 
clinics throughout the country to provide free and accessible health care, in 
the first place to the poor ‹ many of whom had never had access to a doctor 
before ‹ but increasingly to the rest of society as well. 
reports that a recent survey by the Central Bank of Venezuela reveals the 
mission has directly benefited nearly 50% of households, including 62.3% of 
low-income households.

Speaking at the inauguration of the remodelled Perez Carreno Hospital in 
Caracas, Chavez pointed out: ³We have seen equipment that did not exist in 
Venezuela before, now for the service of all Venezuelans. Some of them have been
installed and operated for the first time.² Health minister Jesus Mantilla 
reported that US$631 million had been assigned for the remodelling and upgrading
of 62 public hospitals across the country.

The Chavez government¹s program of massive spending on social programs and 
public works is helping fuel sustained economic growth. Such social spending is 
a key part of the Bolivarian revolution, which seeks to redistribute the 
nation¹s significant oil wealth to eradicate poverty and develop the nation. A 
study released in July by the US-based Center for Economic and Policy Research, 
entitled ³The Venezuelan economy in the Chavez years², which reports a growth in
real GDP of 76% since the first quarter of 2003, claims that there is ³no end in
sight² for the current period of economic expansion. According to the report, 
under Chavez, government social spending has increased by over 170% per person 
in real terms. This figure does not even include the social spending carried out
directly by the state-owned oil company PDVSA, which last year accounted for 
7.3% of GDP. Unsurprisingly, this has led to a significant drop in poverty.

This growing social spending has been funded by government policies that brought
more of the economy under state control, increased taxes on the wealthy and 
carried out a massive crackdown on corporate tax evasion. A July 30 Prensa 
Latina article reported that Venezuela now receives an additional $5.8 billion 
per year as a direct result of changes in government policy in the oil industry.
These changes include significant hikes in taxes and royalties paid by private 
oil corporations operating inside Venezuela.

Also, the government¹s nationalistion in May of holdings of foreign oil 
companies in the Orinoco Belt, with private companies offered the opportunity to
stay on as minority shareholders, is expected to generate an additional $800 
million this year. Chavez has said the government plans to redistribute the 
additional income into health and education, as well as state steel, lumber and 
cement industries.

The crackdown on corporate tax evasion, which has forcibly closed corporations 
such as McDonald¹s, Coca-Cola and Microsoft for up to 48 hours for tax 
irregularities, has scored impressive results. The government tax agency, 
SENIAT, has already reached 63.7% of its overall target for this year, according
to a July 11 report ‹ $17.2 billion compared to $11.9 
billion by this time last year. This comes at the same time as Chavez has 
reduced the burden on the poor by lowering the value-added tax on basic goods 
and services, with the aim of completely eradicating it by 2009. quoted SENIAT superintendent Jose Gregorio Vielma Mora, who
said that tax evasion is a ³common practice and manoeuvre of the world 
capitalists and neoliberals². reported on June 22 that unemployment had dropped to 8% in 
May ‹ the lowest level in over a decade according to the National Institute of 
Statistics. Following the economic crisis caused by a bosses¹ lockout that 
attempted to remove Chavez from office, in February 2003 unemployment had 
reached just over 20%. The current figure is over 2% lower than this time last 
year. The percentage of the work force in the formal economy has increased by 
1%, up to 55.9%. Before Chavez was elected, the majority of workers were in the 
so-called informal economy ‹ which includes, among others, those eeking out a 
living as street vendors, in the black market, in workplaces of less than five 
workers or as domestic workers.

US film-maker Michael Moore¹s latest documentary, Sicko, is a devastating 
exposure of the horrors of the US health-care system, where ordinary people are 
at the mercy of a system that aims only to generate profit for private 
corporations. Venezuela is moving in the exact opposite direction, and partially
funding it at the expense of the often US-based large corporations ‹ which goes 
a long way to explaining the incessant hostility of the US government towards 
Venezuela and the Bolivarian revolution.

From: International News, Green Left Weekly issue #720 8 August 2007.

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