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Venezuela: Poverty Map

By Tomas Sancio | Venezuelan Politics

The map above shows the Venezuelan states. The ones in green have a poverty rate below the average and in the red ones the poverty index is above the average. The figures are for the Year 2002 (the updated figures were not available on the web) and were taken from the web page of the National Institute of Statistics. The states that had a poverty index below the 2002 average of 48.6% were the Capital District (29.2%), Miranda (34.9%), Vargas (35.1%), Anzoategui (35.1%), Nueva Esparta (40.7%), Delta Amacuro (48.1%) and Aragua (48.3%).

Benesuela vs. Venezuela, an excellent book by Jose Luis Cordeiro was published in 1998. Besides the accuracy of the insights regarding Education (its main topic), one could find a simple explanation of why Venezuela was doing so badly as a nation. Mr. Cordeiro explains that the oil income flows from the State in a very inefficient manner back to the people. Venezuelan voters are always looking for the "best distribuitor" or the President that gives back the most but never stop to wonder how it would be if we paid the State instead of the other way around.

The map explains the results of this "trickling down". It simply doesn't work, not even in the USA. Let's imagine that the "faucet" of resources is located in Caracas, the business, government and for-most-of-the-decisions capital of the country. When the government opens the faucet, it can only reduce poverty in the nearest territories (Capital District, Miranda and Vargas). The rest of the states are pretty much out of luck.

Yes, you might say, but how about Aragua, Delta Amacuro, Anzoategui and Nueva Esparta? If you remove the first two because of the proximity of their poverty index to the average, you are still left with Anzoategui and Nueva Esparta (Margarita Island, basically). Lets start with Anzoategui. According to the National Assembly web page, the economy of the Anzoategui state was mostly led by oil refineries and other value-added activities with hydrocarbons, the automobile industry and tourism. One could say that the public and private oil activity vs. the population density (24.88 hab/sq. km in 1999) is higher in Anzoategui that in the poorer Zulia state (50.21 hab/sq. km) for example, which is another state who's economy is mostly based on oil.

This leaves us with Nueva Esparta. There's no oil in Margarita and it's very far from the country's capital for its inhabitants to depend on State aid. This may be the isolated case of real local creation of wealth (even if poverty is still high) and independence from the central government. Margarita is the highest recipient of foreign tourists in the country and tourism is the type of industry that employs mostly unskilled workers (beach vendors, janitors, waiters, etc.). The flow of foreign currency to the poorest workers does not get more direct than that.

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