Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Starvation in a land of plenty 

I recall (can't find the story right now) that there was once a poll in the new Russia of 1992 or 1993. The question was whether you would rather have shops with goods that you didn't have enough money to buy, or would rather have money but nothing in the shops to buy. Of course, the former won handily -- getting money was something you controlled, goods in the shops was something you had no control over.

Venezuelans are getting both and neither, simultaneously.
President Hugo Chavez's government is trying to cope with shortages of some foods, and the lines at state-run "Megamercal" street markets show many Venezuelans are willing to wait for hours to snap up a handful of products they seldom find in supermarkets.

"You have to get in line and you have to be lucky," said Maria Fernandez, a 64-year-old housewife who was trying to buy milk and chicken on Sunday.

The lines for basic foods at subsidized prices are paradoxical for an oil-rich nation that in many ways is a land of plenty. Shopping malls are bustling, new car sales are booming and privately owned supermarkets are stocked with American potato chips, French wines and Swiss Gruyere cheese.

Yet other foods covered by price controls � eggs, chicken � periodically are hard to find in supermarkets. Fresh milk has become a luxury, and even baby formula is scarcer nowadays.

The shortages are prompting some Venezuelans to question Chavez's economic policies while he campaigns for constitutional changes that, if approved in a Dec. 2 referendum, would let him run for re-election indefinitely.
Perhaps ol Hugo could look at what good price controls have done for Zimbabwe.

The government says it now has to import leg of pork "because local suppliers declined to participate." This is, they say, political. So too is starvation.

(h/t: Angus at KPC)

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