Özgür Orhangazi on Venezuelan Economic Policies after Chávez

The last issue of the Review of Radical Political Economics (go here; subscription required) has an interesting paper by Özgür on the anti-Neoliberal policies of the Chávez Bolivarian Socialist government of Venezuela. The paper is important since, as noted by Mark Weisbrot (here), there is a lot of misinformation in the Western media about the nature of the Venezuelan society.

The paper can be downloaded in its Working Paper version here. From the abstract:

As neoliberal policies failed to fulfill their promises and instead produced various financial and social crises, one after another, left-oriented leaders took power in Latin America and began, to varying degrees, seeking alternatives to the neoliberal orthodoxy. Venezuela went further than others in reversing neoliberal policies, nationalizing key industries, reintroducing extensive social programs and promoting alternatives to the capitalist organization of production. While the view on Chávez’s politics and his government’s policies varied from seeing him as an authoritarian caudillo with populist tendencies to the leader of 21st century socialism, more recently several scholars discussed the radical nature of the economic policies implemented.
This paper contributes to this growing literature by analyzing the economic policies of the Chávez government. These policies mark, in general, a significant departure from the neoliberal orthodoxy with a focus on greater national autonomy, a return to some of the macroeconomic policies of the earlier eras, and increased state involvement in the economy through interventions and social programs; and have resulted in improved social indicators such as declining poverty rates, increasing literacy rates, declining unemployment and so on. These policies, at the same time, provided space for a set of ‘transformative’ initiatives, including experiments with worker co-management, cooperatives and participatory planning, all of which seek alternatives to the capitalist organization of the economy, even though these ‘transformative’ attempts so far have been limited in terms of scope and success. Although the Venezuelan experience could be considered sui generis, especially with its dependence on oil and the resultant rentier economy and culture, a critical evaluation of the policies implemented in Venezuela can contributes to both discussions on the alternatives to neoliberal policies as well as to the question of what shape a 21st century socialism could take.

It should be noted that the greatest achievement of the Natural Resource Nationalism, which is the essence of Bolivarian Socialism, is the redistribution of the rents associated with natural resource extraction. Not surprisingly income inequality has decreased in South America in the last decade, against the global trend. However, it should be noted that there are risks in a development strategy that puts excessive emphasis on commodity exports. For a discussion of the limits of the current Latin American development strategy see here.