World

Venezuela Plagued With Inflation Crisis

| by Robert Fowler

The South American country of Venezuela is currently in the throes of an inflation crisis, triggered by a drastic drop in global oil prices. The economic calamity has become so severe that the nation's biggest bill is now only worth five cents in U.S. currency.

The devaluation of the Venezuelan currency, the bolivar, began in 2014, when global oil prices plummeted by over 60 percent. While that development proved beneficial for Americans at the gas pump, it devastated the South American nation's economy, which relied on oil for 95 percent of its exports, according to The Independent.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro attempted to make up for the economic shortfall by ordering the nation's banks to print and circulate more cash, which has resulted in a colossal rise in inflation.

An analysis conducted by Dolartoday found that the bolivar's value declined by 55 percent during the month of November, according to CNN Money.

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By Nov. 28, one dollar in U.S. currency was worth 3,480 bolivars. The IMF estimates that Venezuela's currency will experience inflation to the tune of 1,660 percent in 2017.

The Venezuelan government does not release consumer-price data regularly, but the country's people are experiencing the effects of inflation in tangible ways on a daily basis.

Humberto Gonzalez, a delicatessen owner in Caracas, told Bloomberg Markets that he uses his scale to measure the weight of both his cheese products and his customers' cash. Because Venezuelans have to use so many bills just to pay for basic goods, it's easier to weigh the stacks of cash instead of counting them.

"It's sad," Gonzalez said. "At this point, I think the cheese is worth more."

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Financial director Jesus Casique said that examples such as Gonzalez weighing cash are "a sign of runaway inflation. But Venezuelans don't know just how bad it is because the government refuses to publish figures."

The amount of bolivars needed just to carry out basic transactions has become so outrageous that many Venezuelans can no longer fit their daily wads of cash in conventional wallets. ATMs have had to pump out so many bills for even modest withdrawals that they need to be filled within hours instead of days, according to The Washington Post.

"It's a currency that's going down the toilet," said managing partner Russ Dallen of Caracas Capital Markets. "No one wants to hold on to something that's going to be worth 50 percent less in a month."

Latin American fixed income strategist Siobhan Mordern of Nomura Holdings concurred, stating that the bolivar is "absolutely a worthless currency… It's in free fall."

The Maduro government has responded to the inflation crisis by ordering the printing of larger-denomination bills to be released in January 2017.

Sources: Bloomberg MarketsCNN MoneyThe Independent, The Washington Post / Photo credit: Manaure Quintero/Bloomberg

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