[Marxism] CubaNews reader's comments re Vzlan campaign

michael a. lebowitz mlebowit at sfu.ca
Mon Nov 27 14:51:27 MST 2006

Walter cited a CubaNews reader's comments ('Chavez dedicates...) as follows:

>The Rosales campaign has offered to give an ATM card to every adult
>in the country and they could retrieve 1 million bolivares per month
>(almost 2 times the minimum wage) from the income generated by
>the sale of oil. Now, THAT, is "populism" The ATM promise is called
>"Mi Negra" [My Black Woman, although it supposedly refers to oil]...
>Of course, if every adult gets 1 million bolivares per month, then,
>no one would work for the minimum wage. That should delight the
>capitalist class...
>"The heart of the Rosales campaign is a debit card called Mi Negra -
>the black oil card. This oil-wealth-to-families debit card is a major
>departure from decades of Venezuelan government failures to address
>poverty by investing 20% of Venezuela's oil wealth directly via ATMs
>in the population, over half of which is poor. Two-thirds of
>Venezuelans favor direct oil wealth payments to families, which
>Alaska used in the 1970s to defeat poverty and stimulate economic
>growth there as I outline in my book. Mi Negra has struck the same
>responsive chord in Venezuela that the Permanent Fund did in Alaska."

         I don't know who this CubaNews reader is, but I'd like to 
know the source of his/her certainty that two-thirds of Venezuelans 
favour direct oil wealth payments and that Mi Negra has struck this 
responsive chord. The polling results show quite the opposite picture 
(they don't only ask about voting intentions-- check out the ipsos-ap 
poll), and even the opposition's pollsters have at best said that the 
more people know about Mi Negra, the more favourable they are. Not 
surprising, incidentally, because they've been given a free ride so 
far by the government--- which hasn't pointed out (a) that Mi Negra 
is explicitly an alternative to government social programmes, (b) if 
financed by not buying Argentine bonds, providing lower cost oil to 
the poor outside (and thus by inserting those additional funds into 
the already-stretched-to the limit Venezuelan economy) while 
maintaining the programmes, the result would be to accelerate 
already-accelerating inflation and increase import demands (and thus 
the street rate on USD) and shortages.
         Incidentally, the Mi Negra details are a moving target, but 
the most consistent claim is that it will go only to the poor 
(otherwise the math would be a joke since it is to be limited in 
total to 20 or 30% of oil revenue) rather than to every adult. So, in 
a country without any kind of tax infrastructure, someone would be 
applying a means test to determine entitlement.

Michael A. Lebowitz
Professor Emeritus
Economics Department
Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, B.C., Canada V5A 1S6

Currently based in Venezuela.
Can be reached at
Residencias Anauco Suites
Departamento 601
Parque Central, Zona Postal 1010, Oficina 1
Caracas, Venezuela
(58-212) 573-6333, 571-1520, 571-3820 (or hotel cell: 0412-200-7540)
fax: (58-212) 573-7724

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