Friday 8 March 2013

Chaveznomics; One more thing

And no, Chavez wasn't an economic genius. Numerous commentators, like Matthew Yglesias, have pointed out that Venezuela's success in various areas has at least as much to do with its natural resources as its political leadership:
The entire Latin American region performed well during this period, and not coincidentally it was also a great time for incumbent politicians. That's as true in Venezuela as in Brazil or Argentina or Colombia. But if you look at it from the outside, it seems that Chavez was not really able to turn Venezuela's unusually generous natural resource endowments into unusually strong economic performance.
This is a fair comment as far as it goes but it also misses the point spectacularly.  Yes, the improvements in poverty, health, literacy and so on resulted from natural resource wealth and maybe that wealth could have been used better and, sure, maybe it hasn't set up Venezuela for long term growth and prosperity.  But, without Chavez or someone like him, none of that wealth would have done any of the good it has done in the short term but nor would it have been invested in long term infrastructure -- the poor would not have seen much of it at all.

Chavez may not have succeeded in producing an ever-progressing socialist utopia, certain to continue stride bravely onwards into the future.  What he did do was to exploit the resources that were available to him in order to make colossal short to medium term improvements to the lives of ordinary people.  That might not in and of itself be enough for Venezuela's future but it's a lot more than would have occurred otherwise.  That's his legacy.