February 9, 2013 - 10:45 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - Venezuela announced Friday that it was devaluing its currency, a step that had long been deemed necessary but could push the spiking inflation even higher, The New York Times said.
The devaluation, which lowered the currency’s value against the dollar by nearly a third, was aimed at solidifying government finances and easing a tight market for dollars that has choked back imports and led to shortages of basic goods.
The move had been widely anticipated, but it had been unclear whether officials would make what could be a politically risky decision with President Hugo Chávez still out of the country after undergoing cancer surgery in Cuba on Dec. 11.
Government spending soared last year during the campaign to re-elect Mr. Chávez, leading to a large deficit, even though, at more than $100 a barrel, the price of oil is very high.
Pressure to devalue had been building for months, as the black market exchange rate rose to more than four times the official rate. The imbalance was evident in the prices of many goods. But the devaluation will also make imported goods more expensive, which will probably make inflation worse. Inflation for the 12 months ended on Jan. 31 was 22.2 percent, one of the highest rates in Latin America.
Surging inflation could cause political problems for the government. But the exchange rate had reduced the dollars available to importers, leading to shortages of goods like sugar, chicken and toilet paper. Many analysts believe that voters blame the government more for shortages than for inflation.