Academic journal article Pennsylvania Literary Journal

The Strange Economic Policies of an Oil Paradise

Academic journal article Pennsylvania Literary Journal

The Strange Economic Policies of an Oil Paradise

Article excerpt

The Strange Economic Policies of an Oil Paradise Raul Gallegos. Crude Nation: How Oil Riches Ruined Venezuela. Lincoln: Potomac Books: University of Nebraska Press, October 2016. ISBN: 978-1-61234-770-7. Current Affairs. 256pp. 9 photographs, 1 map. Cloth: $34.95.

The cover of this book is very high in contrast with a black blob against a bright yellow background, so I almost chose this book twice as I was looking through Nebraska's catalog on two separate seasons. This is a study of how Venezuela's largest oil reserve in the world has been mismanaged leading the country further into disrepute instead of into wealth (as has been the case for the oil-rich countries in the Middle East). The problem, according to Gallegos, an oil reporter, is that Venezuela's government is subsidizing the country's cost of oil at the pump, while it has failed to assure the availability of basic foodstuffs, such as sugar and milk.

Unlike in Dimitrijevic's case (reviewed below), because Gallegos perspective on Venezuela was negative, he begins his "Acknowledgments" by stressing that writing this critical book was a "challenge" because "government officials refused to return calls, cancelled appointments, and ignored questions" (xi). Some business leaders and economists did speak up, though occasionally anonymously. He then begins the "Prologue: The World's Craziest Economy" by confessing that on his first flight into Venezuela in 2004, he smuggled in $9,000 in a "hidden. money belt" (1). He explains that this was necessary be- cause it was difficult to convert a reporter salary in the US into money he could use in Caracas without some illegal wiring, or other shady deals. Apparently banks there refuse to take US dollars. He also had problems with most other daily transactions, including the fact that new cars were impossible to find and used cars were priced much higher than they were worth. He stresses the willingness of the people to take on bankrupting loans for anything from plastic surgery to DirecTV. He saw the same poor money management habits among the country's rulers, and these are the problems he then explores with a bit more detachment in the rest of the book. One curious point is that the price of a Renaissance Caracas La Castellana room in January 2015 varied between $1,503 per night to $190 per night depending on which of the three conflicting exchange rates one used. …

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