It is hard to find information about Venezuela price ceiling plan

Unlike the previous articles in this new journey that I recently took, this article won’t be as detailed and as structured as the previous articles. One of those previous articles was about Venezuela, where I summarized a conversation on C-SPAN about the country’s economic, financial and social crisis and provided my analysis on what led to it.

Soon after I wrote the article, I read about how Nicolás Maduro announced a new system of price ceiling concerning 50 goods and services. The article’s title is not necessarily the best, since that system at the time was at the beginning stage – where President Maduro offered the Constituent Assembly to consult with producers and communities about the prices before moving forward with imposing price ceilings on various goods and services – while the title implied that a price ceiling policy had been applied on September 8, 2017. Five weeks later I was curious to see how that new system has been working in Venezuela: particularly whether the price ceiling plan moved forward, and if yes – then what those 50 goods and services exactly are, what their price ceiling is and what impact they have been having on the Venezuelan economy and the Venezuelan people. Needless to say, I was expecting to see reports that normally follow such policies – that is, that this policy failed and the situation was getting from bad to worse with rising inflation and empty shelves at the grocery stores among other ordinary economic consequences following a price ceiling policy on goods and services. However, as open-minded as I am, I was also open to reading dissenting reports and make an educated conclusion on which reports are more accurate.

Unfortunately, five weeks later I either find old articles about well-known cash shortages, food and drug shortages, inflation, long waits at banks among other tragic activities that are sadly becoming common in Venezuela, or I find articles about the announcement of the price ceiling system – which, as I learned, is called Plan 50. Those two alternative types of articles constitute the bulk of my searches on Google, by far the best search engine. This either implies that the proposal hasn’t become a policy yet, or there hasn’t been enough material written about it, or the Google queries were not good enough. A third alternative is articles that have been written after September 8, 2017 – when the announcement was made – but that do not necessarily discuss Plan 50. Learning the name – Plan 50, which happened after I found the news article from its primary source, that is, on the President of Venezuela’s website (which was not easy as he has too many press releases on a daily basis – produced better search results, including on Google Venezuela – www.google.co.ve – which led me to Venezuela’s official gazette – the website that lists, includes, summarizes all officially passed laws and policies of Venezuela. However, I still received some older articles – apparently Plan 50 had not been announced for the first time as that had happened on January 20, 2016 as well.

Venezuela’s official gazette so far includes 21 items (viewed on October 15, 2017, last announced update was on September 17, 2017):

Arroz (rice):                                  Bs. 26.000

Pasta (pasta):                                 Bs. 24.700

Huevos (eggs):                              Bs. 34.000

Pollo (chicken):                                  Bs. 19.900

Harina de maíz (cornflour):                  Bs. 17.250

Harina de trigo (wheat flour):                   Bs. 21.000

Carne de primera (prime meat):               Bs. 34.000

Carne de segunda (secondary meat):             Bs. 29.000

Salsa de tomate (ketchup):                 Bs. 13.000

Mayonesa (mayonnaise):                          Bs. 16.000

Aceite (oil):                                Bs. 31.000

Margarina (margarine):                          Bs. 18.700

Jabón de lavar (laundry soap):                  Bs. 23.000

Jabón de tocador (toilet soap):             Bs. 13.000

Sal (salt):                                    Bs. 10.000

Vinagre (vinegar):                            Bs. 20.000

Mantequilla (butter):                      Bs. 25.000

Toallas sanitarias (paper towels):             Bs. 85.000

Azúcar (sugar):                            Bs. 23.000

Café (coffee):                                Bs. 36.000

Pasta dental (toothpaste):                    Bs. 30.000

I couldn’t help but notice how Gaceta Oficial doesn’t take into account the weight (or quantity in general) of some of these goods – such as chicken (pollo), as it depends on whether the consumer wants to purchase 1 kilogram, 0.5 kilogram or 2 kilograms of chicken. That in and of itself has the potential to open a loophole thus making the effect of any price ceiling obsolete. $1 is currently shown to be worth 10 bolivars (the Venezuelan currency).

However – and that is the main point of this article – I have been unable to find anything about whether Plan 50 has been implemented, whether the government-imposed price ceilings are being enforced and what impact that has had on the Venezuelan economy. Or maybe it is too early to see data, let alone analysis on Plan 50?!

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