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Volume 59 / Social Sciences

ECONOMICS: VENEZUELA


ROBERTO PALACIOS, Economist, World Bank


PERHAPS THE MOST STRIKING ASPECT of the articles and books reviewed for HLAS 61 is the absence of authors whose works were included in previous HLAS volumes. Like many of their compatriots, some of the top Venezuelan economists have left the country to work in the US or other countries. The suspicious death of Janet Kelly, the long-time head of research at the most reputable business and economics institute, the Instituto de Estudios Superiores de Administración (IESA) may be the most extreme sign of the hostile atmosphere that has led many intellectuals to flee the country.

Among the well-known economists who have remained, the Universidad Central's Maza Zavala is the most notable, having been tapped to head the Central Bank under Mr. Chávez. Despite assurances to the contrary, Zavala has watched the bolívar collapse in a massive depreciation against the major international currencies.

The collection of works reviewed here is clearly weaker than in previous years. The dearth of high quality academic material may be less surprising than the decline in the number of books and articles decrying globalization compared to HLAS 57 and HLAS 59. Instead, the sparse output includes the uncontroversial topics of the economic development of the states, credit to small and medium-sized enterprises, and an interesting, if predictable, attack on price controls by the head of the country's Chamber of Commerce (item #bi2002004406#). The only vestige of social critique of the type common in the mid-1990s is the study highlighting the shortcomings of the unemployment program (item #bi2002004401#).

In HLAS 59, we noted how the pendulum had swung towards the recognition of the role of foreign players, ranging from the international financial institutions to foreign investors in the banking system and oil sector. At the end of the 1990s, after the honeymoon period with the Chávez administration had ended, this recent pattern of integration with the world became less certain—as did everything else in Venezuela.


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