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In Venezuela the cobbler’s children…

By Veneconomy

27.08.05 | President Chávez is nowhere near the mark when it comes to housing.... In his eagerness to “conquer” the continent, Chávez hands out the country’s money to solve problems in other lands around the hemisphere and sets up the $50 million AlbaCaribe Fund for cooperation in social development projects elsewhere in the region.

Meanwhile, in Venezuela the awful truth is that, after six and half years in power, this administration has only built 120,000 homes (fewer than 20,000 per year, vs. an average of 50,000 per year during the “Fourth Republic”). Of these 120,000, the Ministry of Housing and Habitat has determined that, so far this year, 34,603 have been damaged or destroyed by the rains; 4,700 have been demolished beyond repair, leaving 50,000 (out of the 120,000) that have been declared uninhabitable due to lack of utilities, faulty construction or unstable land.

The calamity of the Bolivarian housing policy is so great that, every day, more and more communities are clamoring for a solution to their housing problems, closing down access roads to the capital or main thoroughfares. To make matters worse, during the Aló, Presidente broadcast from Cuba last weekend --at a cost of billions of bolivars-- viewers found out that, in less than 11 months, 97 soldiers from the Venezuelan army had built an entire 150-home development, with all the facilities and requisite access roads, in a far away city called Sandino (now Villa Bolívar), for the victims of the hurricanes that hit that country last year. And, pouring salt on the wound, that it was paid for with Venezuelan money. Ah, but that is not all. Now the president is promising help to all the countries in the hemisphere that need it. To do so, he sets up cooperation funds and sends army personnel to other countries to help them with their housing problems.

Meanwhile, here at home, President Chávez’s solution for all the domestic problems is to publicly scold one or another of his ministers during his Sunday TV show and replace them periodically. Or –even worse—he forces the banks to bring down their mortgage rates, but pays absolutely no attention to the bigger problem, namely making sure that the banks have access to the Bs.1.0-1.5 trillion per year required to finance these low-interest mortgages. The only thing the President doesn’t seem to do is come up with a coherent, sensible housing plan.

Additionally, instead of turning to the private sector for help, taking advantage of the capital and know-how it possesses, the government focuses its attention on small projects with other governments.

This week, back home after inspecting a housing development in Jamaica, paid for with Venezuelan money, President Chávez will swear in the new minister of Housing and Habitat, Luis Carlos Figueroa. The minister will undoubtedly speak of Chinese, Cuban or Iranian houses, of finishing the 55,000 pending housing units, of ghost loans from phantom banks, and other fairy tales of the kind.

In Venezuela The cobbler’s children have no shoes...

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