Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

March 14, 2014

Poverty reduction in Venezuela

Filed under: economics,journalism,Venezuela — louisproyect @ 12:17 am

As many of you are aware, Salon.com has been a source of vicious anti-Chavista propaganda for quite some time now. An article by Simeon Tegel titled “5 myths about the Venezuela crisis” is a prime example. What caught my eye particularly was this:

If Maduro and Chavez have a single claim to justify their combined 15 years in power, it’s that they have significantly benefited Venezuela’s poor majority. No one seriously questions that the percentage of Venezuelans classed as poor has dropped from around 50 percent to 30 percent over that period. The problem is that many other countries in Latin America, including staunchly free-market economies Chile and Peru, have registered similar progress over the same period. Just take a look at this graph by Argentine economist Lucas Llach.

Another liberal publication that has it in for Venezuela is the Independent newspaper that gave journalist James Bloodworth the opportunity to make exactly the same point as Tegel, even citing the same graph (since Bloodworth’s article appeared first, it was obvious that Tegel was up to a little plagiarism.)

Between 2007 and 2011 there was a reduction in extreme poverty in Venezuela by some 38 per cent. Impressive no doubt. But the percentage of people who escaped extreme poverty in Brazil during the same period was 44 per cent, in Peru 41 per cent and in Uruguay 63 per cent.

The graph both journalists referred to was actually produced by the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC). One of the things I have learned about statistics is that they are insufficient for telling the whole story, especially when it comes to questions of wealth and poverty—and Venezuela in particular. The problem with the graph is that it cuts off before 2012. After 2012, poverty reduction slows down in all of the cited countries except for the two that are demonized so frequently in places like Salon.com: Venezuela and Ecuador. (I suppose that I don’t have to remind you that Ecuador is another country that gets bashed by liberals like Tegel and Bloodworth at every opportunity.)

The latest report from ECLAC makes exactly such a case:

Six of the 11 countries with information available in 2012 recorded falling poverty levels (see table 1). The largest drop was in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, where poverty fell by 5.6 percentage points (from 29.5% to 23.9%) and extreme poverty by 2.0 percentage points (from 11.7% to 9.7%). In Ecuador, poverty was down by 3.1 percentage points (from 35.3% to 32.2%) and indigence by 0.9 percentage points (from 13.8% to 12.9%).

Another statistic that does not enter Tegel and Bloodworth’s calculations is the GINI coefficient, a measure of income inequality. Bloodworth would probably have not mentioned Brazil if his editor had given him instructions to deal with GINI statistics. At  .546 it is close to Guatemala and Honduras in terms of inequality (a GINI of 1 would be perfectly unequal; zero would be perfectly equal.) At .447, Venezuela is the most economically equal country in Latin America. (http://www.quandl.com/demography/gini-index-all-countries)

I noticed Bloodworth’s favorable reference to Peru, proof supposedly that “Boring social democracy may be less romantic, but it has been far more successful at tackling poverty than the Chavez/Maduro model.” Did Bloodworth think that his readers would not bother to check who is the head of state in Peru? I know that my readers would.

It is none other than Ollanta Humala, a figure who has come in for as much redbaiting as Hugo Chavez over the years. The gold standard for redbaiting—Fox News—just about equated the two politicians in a 2011 article titled “Ollanta Humala of Peru –Hugo Chavez’s Secret Candidate”. After Humala’s election, The Australian rendered its verdict on the direction that Peru would take, a far cry from “boring social democracy”:

A FORMER lieutenant-colonel moulded in the image of the Marxist Venezuelan firebrand Hugo Chavez was elected President of Peru yesterday, adding to the trend of the leftward political drift across Latin America.

Ollanta Humala, 48, narrowly defeated the daughter of an imprisoned former leader in an election campaign that laid bare the rift between the millions of chronically poor and the middle class. The affluent fear punitive taxes, in the style of Mr Humala’s Venezuelan mentor, and a reverse of economic reforms that made Peru one of the most successful economies in Latin America.

2 Comments »

  1. Brilliant illustration of how the bourgeois punditry of the commercial press foists up pathetic neo-con top down trickle down economics as somehow equivalent to bottom up class struggle which attempts from the outset to educate the masses by sharpening their organizational prowess & solidarity, their class consciousness, their self confidence, and their role in history.

    Almost a century since the Bolshevik Revolution and still labor creates all wealth, private property is still a crime, and the fate of the planet still rests in the outcome of the struggle between two great historic classes, those who own & control the means of production and those who are forced to sell their labor to survive.

    Every day billions of employees walk into workplaces around the globe with the objective interest of getting the most amount of money for the least amount of work. At the same time the employers strive for the opposite — the least amount of pay for the most amount of work. That class antagonism at the base of all social realtions today is literally what makes the social world go round.

    The 1% vs. 99% motto of Occupy therefore has only been temporarily stifled. It’s full resonance has yet to be played out given the profound social contradictions on the horizon.

    The only real structural difference between now & and a century ago aside from consumer credit & the so-called welfare state prolonging & ameliorating class antagonisms is the possibility of environmental disasters that neither Marx, Engels, Lenin or Trotsky, nor Jack London’s “Iron Heel” ever anticipated.

    Although it’s likely been 50 years since Proyect read London’s “The Iron Heel” an Unrepentant book review would be welcomed by this blogs younger readers to be sure.

    As Wiki quotes: “The Iron Heel is cited by George Orwell’s biographer Michael Shelden as having influenced Nineteen Eighty-Four. Orwell himself described London as having made “a very remarkable prophecy of the rise of Fascism”, in the book and believed that London’s understanding of the primitive had made him a better prophet “than many better-informed and more logical thinkers.”

    What do you say Lou? How about an old fashioned classic book review before you go blind? It’d be fascinating & riveting at the same time plus excellently written I’ll bet in advance.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — March 14, 2014 @ 2:03 am

  2. Is there anyone on earth who can actually get all the way through even one of Karl Friedrich’s garbled comments?

    Comment by Mikey — March 14, 2014 @ 11:45 am


RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

The Rubric Theme. Blog at WordPress.com.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,962 other followers

%d bloggers like this: