Published On: Tue, Mar 17th, 2015

Barter with Venezuela

dekker_0On the free market, the Bolivar Fuerte traded at 270 Bs.F against the US Dollar, yesterday, with an official exchange rate of 6.2 to 12 Bs. F. The Bolívar Fuerte (sign: Bs.F. orBs.; plural: Bolívares Fuertes; ISO 4217 code: VEF) has been the currency of Venezuela since 1 January, 2008. The fall in oil revenue created another US $ 30 billion deficit in Venezuelan budget over the last four months, causing the economy to shrink with another 7-10% in 2015. The shortages in all shops and supermarket are becoming a nightmare for the entire population. A small happy few manage to benefit from the situation with illegal currency trade, and a steep increase of narco transactions. But new opportunities opened up and remain unexploited. At today’s value of the Bs.F, Venezuela’s labor force can easily compete with cheap labor in China and Southeast Asia. It would be straight forward and extremely profitable to start up a massive high labor-intensive production industry in Venezuela, and make Curacao the gateway to the world for Venezuelan barter trade of homegrown products.

That is of course if, and only if, the local Venezuelans are ready to work and be productive. Their Cuban counterparts always refused such mass production industry and preferred to stick to an outdated sugar cane industry. No matter how many trips I made in Castro’s workers paradise, I could never find a product of any interest to the rest of the world. Maybe Venezuelans will be more sensible.

Venezuela has a great history and tradition in production, from high tech automotive to agricultural products. Unfortunately nowadays, none of these products make it to the global markets. The socialist-Bolivarian dreams, of “we never have to work again” and “the State will provide for all we need with oil revenue” turned into a big disappointment. The State is out of cash and the country was plundered, left to bandits and large-scale robbery.

Under the present circumstances of failing security, law and order, no foreign investor is likely to put one dollar into the ailing economy of Bolivar. So, this is the great opportunity for Maduro’s government. The Chinese will undoubtedly be most helpful by advising the President how to set up sweat shops, nation wide, and turn the 150,000-men prison population into a mighty production force.

Curacao’s Free Trade Zone is ideally positioned to handle such products, even, in the absence of dollars, if it were in the form of barter trade. Venezuela needs just about all consumptionproducts and it should be easy to make a swap.

Curacao, what are you waiting for???

By Jacob Gelt Dekker, opinion columnist for Curaçao Chronicle.

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