ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
- Venezuela is a country with an extraordinary potential for economic development. It possesses vast natural resources including the world’s largest oil reserves and has a large working-age population . Venezuela has one of Latin America’s highest rates of per capita income, and also one of its lowest rates of economic inequality. Under the administration of President Chávez, Venezuela has been building a new productive model based on the coexistence of public and private enterprise. This change was initiated with the hope of uniting the social and economic interests of the nation and strengthening the belief that the country’s dynamism exists in local communities and in the participation of the Venezuelan people in businesses and social endeavors.
- Venezuela’s economy has been expanding in recent years; in 2012, the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew by 5.6%, compared to 4.2% the previous year.
Venezuela’s currency is called the Bolívar Fuerte (“Strong Bolívar”). The Bolívar Fuerte replaced the Bolívar – the previous currency – on January 1, 2008 in a process of reconversion carried out the Central Bank of Venezuela (BCV) whereby one Bolívar Fuerte was equal to 1,000 Bolívares. The new currency has many special features:
- It has a new, more colorful design and combines a rich cultural aesthetic with new security features that minimize the risk of forgery.
- It won the “Best New Banknote” Award of the International Association of Currency Affairs.
Get to know the new family of bills and coins that make up Venezuela’s currency, the Bolivar Fuerte.
An important element of Venezuela’s political economic agenda is the process of regional integration that is uniting the country with its neighbors in the region of Latin America and the Caribbean and creating new economic and social projects. Below is a list of some of the new mechanisms for regional integration.
Bolivarian Alternative for the People of Our Americas (ALBA)
Proposed by President Chávez, the Bolivarian Alternative for the Peoples of Our Americas was founded to fight poverty and social exclusion. Its economic objective is to achieve wellbeing and integration among member states. Its main instrument is the Bank of ALBA, whose purpose is to create and administer resources oriented toward promoting environmental, social and economic development.
ALBA has eight member countries: Antigua and Barbuda, Bolivia, Cuba, Dominica, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Venezuela. The proposal to create ALBA was first made by President Chávez at the Third Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Association of Caribbean States, held on December 11-12, 2001, in Margarita Island. It was officially launched with Cuba on December 14, 2004. The organization has developed a common currency to facilitate economic exchange between member countries called the Sucre.
Union of South American Nations (UNASUR )
UNASUR is a regional block created on May 23, 2008, in Brasilia, Brazil, to promote integration among member states in areas such as: politics, society, culture, the economy, environment and infrastructure. It includes all of the countries of South America: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay and Venezuela. While the group is focused on political and security issues, it also includes the Bank of the South, a multilateral bank used to promote economic and social development projects.
Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC)
The Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (known by its Spanish initials as CELAC), is an organization that unites, for the first time, the 33 countries of the region into a single block to make decisions jointly and without the influence of other nations.
This new body, in addition to serving as a forum for political dialogue, aims to strengthen unity, defend democracy, forge cooperation on economic and social development, and promote cultural exchange.
It was born in Venezuela’s capital city of Caracas in December of 2011, when the 33 member states of the new group approved its founding document, the Caracas Declaration.
Petro-America is an energy integration proposal founded on the principles of solidarity, complementarity and the democratic use of energy resources. It includes the following initiatives:
- Petro-South, which includes Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Venezuela.
- Petro-Caribe includes Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Cuba, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, Granada, Guyana, Jamaica, Saintt Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Lucia, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago and Venezuela
- Petro-Andes, which includes Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela.
These initiatives involve:
- Redefining relations based on the efficient production and use of energy.
- Reducing energy asymmetries in the region.
- Minimizing the impact of energy costs.
- Reinforcing other regional initiatives such as ALBA and UNASUR.
Areas of cooperation include:
Supply of oil and petroleum products.
Exchange of goods and services and financing of infrastructure for development.
Design, construction and joint operation of refineries, storage and harbor installations.
Joint commercialization of crude oil, products, LPG, asphalt and lubricants.
Transportation and logistics.
Exploration and joint production of petroleum and gas.
Exploration of gas and its commercialization.
Education and technology.
In 2003, President Hugo Chávez called for the creation of government-funded programs called “social missions”that could address the urgent needs of previously marginalized citizens in the areas such as education, health, housing, nutrition, food security and job training. These programs were crafted to serve Venezuela’s poorest and most vulnerable areas with the participation of the communities themselves.
What started as a small number of missions in 2003 has grown rapidly to include dozens of programs that address a broad range of social needs. Studies have indicated that the missions have contributed to a dramatic decrease in poverty in Venezuela..
Below is a description of some of the social missions:
Mission Barrio Adentro (“Inside the Neighborhood”) is a program that aims to guarantee free and universal access to health services among the entire population, something that is established as a human right in article 83 of the constitution. The mission through its four phases looks to create a network of functional primary-care facilities and facilitate the construction and renovation of doctor’s offices, popular clinics and public hospitals.
The first phase of the mission was launched on April 16, 2003, with a goal of developing a system of primary care clinics centered around curative and preventive medicineand establishing a system that guarantees a doctor for every 250 families throughout the country. The mission began to offer free medicines as well as dental and vision services.
The mission’s second phase was launched on June 12, 2005. Its goal was to offer free services like advanced medical exams, treatment for medical emergencies and physical rehabilitation through High Technology Centers (CAT), Centers of Integral Diagnosis Centers (CID) and Integral Rehabilitation Rooms (RIR).
The third phase of the mission consisted of the modernization of the country’s hospital network. Unlike the first two phases, the third phase builds upon the existing traditional network of hospitals as a means to restructure the National Public Health System. It includes the modernization of medical equipment and the restructuring, enlargement and improvement of the hospital infrastructure.
The fourth phase was formally launched on October 6, 2006. The goal of this phase was to build 16 new specialized hospitals around the country, continuing the example of the Latin American Children’s Cardiac Hospital located in Caracas.
Inspired – like Mission Barrio Adentro – by article 83 of the constitution, Mission Miracle was created to provide low-income sectors with free access to optometry and cure those that were previously incapacitated by problems like cataracts, pterygium, and palpebral ptosis.
Initiated in July 2004 as part of agreements signed between Venezuela and Cuba, Mission Miracle has already performed 1.4 million surgeries on patients throughout Latin America. The operations have been conducted in 74 hospitals throughout Venezuela, and have included 189,830 cataracts surgeries, more than 57,000 cornea operations, and 12,000 strabismus operations (90% of them on children under the age of 18). The Sandino Accord, signed by Venezuela and Cuba in July 2005, extended the services of this mission to all of Latin America.
Mision Sonrisa (Mission Smile) was announced in 2006 and aims to address the oral health of Venezuelans, especially the most economically disadvantaged. By 2012, the mission had opened 17 dentistry centers and provided 88,773 needy people with dental prostheses.
Mission Christ Child
In December 2009, with the inauguration of the first neonatal intensive care unit at the Eugenio Pérez Bellard Hospital in the state of Miranda, Venezuela, President Chávez launched Mission Christ Child. Its aim is to improve the quality and availability of services for pregnant women, a task which has involved the participation of local communal councils.
Mission Robinson and Mission Ribas were launched in 2003 to provide all adult Venezuelans with opportunities to complete their education. Mission Robinson is divided into two phases, the first aimed at eliminating illiteracy and the second at providing primary education. Because of Mission Robinson, millions of citizens who previously lacked access to schools have completed their primary education. . Meanwhile, Venezuela was declared free of illiteracy on October 28, 2005, after 1.5 million Venezuelans were taught to read. The director of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Koichiro Matsuura, sent a letter to then minister of education, Aristóbulo Istúriz, certifying the achievement.
Mission Ribas allows Venezuelans to complete their high school degrees.
Mission Sucre, also launched in 2003, facilitates the completion of university-level education. By September 2011, Mission Sucre has reached 560,000 people, graduated 140,000 new professionals, and has made Venezuela the country with the fifth-highest university enrollment rates in the world, according to UNESCO.
Mision Habitat was founded in 2004 to help the Venezuelan people secure housing by offering credits and relief for the purchase of homes. The mission also aids in the creation of integrated communities, where residents have access to all necessary services, from education to health.
Great Housing Mission of Venezuela
More recently, in February of 2011, President Hugo Chávez announced the birth of the Great Housing Mission of Venezuela, a program designed to solve the country’s housing shortage. In his words, the mission seeks “to solve the housing deficit, which is something we can only do collectively, through a united effort by the private and public sector, the private and public banks, workers, honest businesspeople, Venezuelan citizens and the world.”
This mission built 346,700 new homes in 2011 and 2012 and distributed them to low-income families who applied for assistance. In 2013, it aims to build another 380,000 homes.
Mission Mercal, announced in April 2003, is based on article 305 of the constitution, which guarantees a secure food supply. . Its aim is to ensure easy access to basic foods among the population by selling these goods to consumers in a manner that maintains quality and low prices.
By 2010, Mercal had expanded to distribute more than 8.4 million tons of food, guaranteeing access to a balanced diet among low-income sectors and reaching many thousands of Venezuelans on a daily basis. Mercal has guaranteed not just the right to food security, but it has also contributed to job creation. Its chain of subsidized grocery stores has become an important business that employs 8,000 workers directly and 40,000 workers indirectly throughout the country.
Originally known as Mision Vuelvan Caras, which was initiated in 2004, Mission Ché Guevara was created in June of 2007. This mission seeks to deepen the development of a harmonious economic system in accordance with the social and political development plans of the nation.
Another mission that promotes employment is The Great Mission Knowledge and Work which aspires to incorporate 1 million currently unemployed Venezuelans into the labor market and to combat annual job losses. It was proposed in 2011 by President Chávez, who said “the government will use more than $20 million to create hundreds of employment centers.”
Mission Identity started in 2003 as a massive program to grant government-issued identification cards and to Venezuelans who had never received them, allowing them to do things like register to vote and sign up to receive government benefits through other social missions. Due to the program , millions of Venezuelans young and old have obtained the legal documents they need to exercise the full rights of their citizenship.
In the first phase of the program, from October 2003 to December 2004, more than eight million people received their identity cards for the first time or had outdated documents renewed. Between 2005 and 2006, more than five million Venezuelans were registered and were able to exercise their right to vote for the first time in their lives. From July 2006 onward, around 430,000 immigrants were naturalized and nearly 270,000 indigenous people obtained their identity cards for the first time.
Inspired by articles 75, 76 and 86 of the 1999 constitution, Mission Madres del Barrio (“Mothers of the Neighborhood”) was created in 2006 in order to provide support for female-headed households in situations of extreme poverty. and their families, overcome situations of extreme This mission foresees an allocation of 60% to 80% of the minimum wage for housewives that are found to be in a state of extreme poverty, and the benefits are either temporary or permanent. It also incorporates women in other community and social programs to promote their empowerment and involvement.
Mision Guaicaipuro (Mission Guaicaipuro) was inaugurated in 2003 as a means to restore communal land titles and human rights to Venezuela’s numerous indigenous communities.
Environment and Agriculture
Based on Article 127 of the Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Mission Arbol (“Mission Tree”) was founded on June 4, 2006 with the purpose of recovering forests and woodlands throughout the country, preventing erosion and desertification and helping preserve the land and habitats for animal species. With this in mind, the Mission Tree promotes the participation of communities in the construction of a new model of development that focuses mainly on the sustainable use of forest resources for the improvement of the quality of life. At the same time, this mission has an ambitious plan of reforestation that requires the joint action of the public institutions and its citizens. Thousands of conservation committees have been formed around the country to work with Mission Tree in gathering seeds and planting trees. As a result of the government’s environmental policies, Venezuela has been able to reduce its rate of deforestation by 47% compared to 1990.
Mission Zamora was created in 2005 as a means to reclaim and convert idle lands for small-scale agricultural production. To achieve its objective, the mission combines the distribution of lands with a series of initiatives that support small farmers, including credits for the purchase of equipment, technical guidance, inclusion in the food distribution network and commercialization of the products through the country’s the network of state-run markets.
Mission Agro-Venezuela began in January 2011 as a project designed to increase food production throughout the country by providing farmers with technical and financial support. This mission, which operates through the public bank in Venezuela, has delivered 105,000 credits to agricultural producers, allowing them to cultivate 775,000 hectares of strategic food goods including crops, livestock, and fish. The funds, which so far total $1.1 million, are given to more than 170,000 farmers by the Agrarian Socialist Development Fund (Fondas) and the Agricultural Bank of Venezuela (BAV) at reasonable rates and with flexible repayment plans.
Announced in February 2006, Mission Science seeks to promote the creation of scientific knowledge for the purposes of the country’s development and regional integration. This program encourages exchange among the productive sectors of the economy to help share knowledge and coordinate efforts to build a new productive and economic system.
Mission Culture was launched in 2005 and seeks to guarantee and promote Venezuela’s culture and national identity in accordance with Article 99 of the constitution. It is a program that involves education, cultural programming and cultural development. By its seventh anniversary on July 10, 2012, the mission had trained over 12,000 people in different areas of the arts to foster a renewal of popular creativity.
Since January 14, 2006, Mission Negra Hipólita has coordinated policies to provide integral health care to the homeless, those living in extreme poverty, pregnant women in extreme poverty, and people with disabilities. The mission operates through protection committees, which are community groups formed to monitor the needs of their neighborhoods. It responds to the mandate set out in constitutional articles 75, 78, and 79 regarding social and family rights.
As of September of 2012, this mission had assisted 19,840 homeless children and adults people and helped thousands more achieve social reintegration. There are now 39 integral care centers for the homeless throughout Venezuela.
Misión Revolución Energética (“Energy Revolution”) was set in motion in 2006 in order to promote the efficient use of energy by replacing old incandescent light bulbs with power-saving alternatives. The goal is to substitute, for free, 52 million incandescent light bulbs. As of April 2007, the program had replaced 3.058 million light bulbs in 485,000 homes in the city of Caracas. The mission also seeks to raise awareness about the need to conserve energy in the industrial sector and among citizens, and to promote the production of clean energy through solar power, wind power and hydroelectric power.
The Five Great Social Missions
In 2011, five new “great social missions” were launched to build upon the work of previous programs and achieve specific objectives regarding health, employment, housing, social security, and agriculture. The great social missions are: Mission Sons of Venezuela, Mission Knowledge and Work, Mission Housing, Mission Higher Love, and Mission AgroVenezuela. Millions of citizens have already enrolled in these programs and have begun to receive benefits. While still in their infancy, the great social missions are already quite popular.