Venezuela and Its Neighbors Reject IMF Report

By: Chris Carlson - Venezuelanalysis.com

Mérida, April 13, 2007 (venezuelanalysis.com)— Venezuela, along with other countries of the region, rejected the latest report by the International Monetary Fund on the economic growth of the region. The recent report released by the fund predicts that Latin America will not grow as much in 2007 as it did in 2006. Leaders of the region assured that the international organization keeps getting it wrong on Latin America.

"For three consecutive years now they've gotten it wrong with Venezuela," said Venezuela's Minister of Finance, Rodrigo Cabezas, yesterday, in response to the IMF report. "It seems like their prognoses have a kind of political commitment in order to discredit the success of the Venezuelan economy in the last few years," he said.

On Wednesday the international organization released their annual report entitled World Economic Outlook. The report forecast that the world economy will continue to grow, but that Latin America's growth will slow down.

The report projected that economic growth in the region will drop to 4.9 percent this year from 5.5 percent in 2006. Venezuela's growth, which was 10.3 percent last year, is projected to drop to 6.2 percent in 2007, and inflation was predicted to be 21.6 percent.

But Cabezas questioned the motives of the International Monetary Fund, saying that they continuously register low growth rates for Venezuela. In 2005, the IMF predicted a 1.1 percent growth rate for Venezuela, when the real actual growth rate ended at 10.3 percent. In 2006 the IMF said 3.8 percent, when Venezuela actually grew 10.2 percent.

"The IMF hasn't realized that we have 14 quarters, almost 4 years, of sustained growth," said Cabezas, "something that hasn't been achieved in Venezuela since 26 years ago." Cabezas assured that the growth rate for 2007 would be above 7 percent, and could pass 8 percent. The government's goal for inflation is 12 percent.

President of Argentina Nestor Kirchner also responded to the IMF report, rejecting their recommendations. Although the report indicated that Argentina would have the highest growth in the region, Kirchner rejected the suggestions given by IMF director Rodrigo Rato. "He can no longer tell us what we have to do," he said. "We already saw what happened to us when he told us what we had to do."

The President of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, also spoke out against the IMF this week. On Wednesday, he stated that the new Bank of the South, a regional fund being created with the joint efforts of Venezuela, Ecuador and Argentina, would end the region’s subjection to the control of the IMF and World Bank.

"They want to put us on our knees so that the IMF and the World Bank will give us funding," said Correa. "That is the new way of subduing countries. Now they don't need aircraft carriers or bombers, only dollars."

The IMF also recommended that Latin America further open their economies, and create a better environment for investment. According to IMF director Rodrigo Rato, Latin America's growth is behind that of other regions "because their markets are not open or competitive enough."

In what appears to be a veiled call for privatizations, the fund says that the nations of the region should also reduce the role of state-owned companies in the economy. This goes directly against the politics of the Chávez government, which has drastically increased state participation in the economy. Also, Venezuela should control their public spending which has grown "exceptionally fast," they said.

Venezuelan Finance Minister Cabezas responded by saying "the experience of the last three years should demonstrate to the IMF that the problem is not the amount of spending, but the quality of spending."

Cabezas also pointed out that the IMF "ignores" that the percent of homes in Venezuela in conditions of poverty has dropped from 25 percent in 2003 to 9.1 percent in 2006. They also "ignore" that the minimum wage in Venezuela is US$ 238 per month, the highest in Latin America after Chile, and even higher than Chile if food supplements are included, he said.

According to Cabezas, the IMF's calculations are "not technical, nor economic, but political, and they have the intention of discrediting our model."

See also: New Report Raises Doubts about IMF Growth Projections on Venezuela and Argentina