Oil prices are rapidly falling, thus Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro decided to make an important trip this past Monday. He announced in a public address on Sunday evening, “I leave on a very important trip to deal with new projects… and the decline in revenues that are the product of the sharp decline in oil prices.”1 First stop, Russia.
Economy and Development
Latin American nations are notoriously poor tax collectors and Argentina is among the least effective. Despite a relatively high level of development, Argentina’s governments are unable or unwilling to extract at levels comparable even to the surrounding nations. One possible source of this weakness is Argentina’s political structure, including its fiscal federalism and the incentives provided by elections and national governance. Crucially, taxing is unpopular, so politicians that face reelection or can gain resources elsewhere will avoid it.
On July 31st 2014 the clock ran out on the deadline for Argentina’s government to make a $539 million interest payment to the 93 percent of its bondholders which had agreed to debt restructuring in the years since the country’s 2001/2 economic and political crisis. At that time Argentina had been forced to declare the largest sovereign default in world history, but with the latest deadline having been missed, the South American nation is now once again in ‘technical default’ with the doom merchants forecasting profound economic upheaval.
As the specter of economic crisis continues to haunt Europe and the global north, a deepening and simultaneous crisis of representative democracy looks set to bring anti-system parties to power in Spain (Podemos) and Greece (Syriza) in the coming months.
While much of the United States has been figuratively dancing in the streets about the incredibly low gas prices as of late, others have not been so fortunate to enjoy the plummet. Rather, their economies have been suffering because of it. One such nation is Venezuela, which has recently entered into a recession due to the global lack of demand for oil. Oil has been Venezuela’s primary export for years, which accounts for 96 percent of its foreign currency reception.1 The central Venezuelan bank also noted 63.6 percent inflation between November 2013 and November 2014.