Chavez, Maduro and Moon?
The author is a columnist at the JoongAng Ilbo.
Hugo Chavez and Nicolás Maduro have destroyed Venezuela. In 1999, when Chávez came to power, the country was a wealthy nation with the world’s largest oil reserve. But Chavez’s failed politics and the oppressive reign of Maduro, who came to power after Chavez’s death, destroyed the country. It is now one of the poorest countries in the world with one of the highest murder rates. Once known as the Venice of South America, it took just 20 years for Venezuela to fall into misery. The government was addicted to tax hikes and the people were addicted to free welfare. As a result, they both refused to compromise due to their fear of withdrawal.
The two presidents committed crimes of having been drunk on the passions of anti-Americanism, nationalism and self-reliance and failed to see the hardships of the economy. The cruel policies of the socialist regime, which ignores the market and is captivated by an ideology that is almost a cult, have earned the nickname “drunken economy.”
During his 13-year presidency, Chavez did not use oil revenue to build an economic structure for sustainable growth. He spent it all on public expenditures such as free welfare programs, minimum wage hikes, working hour cuts and an increase in the number of public servants. The money was not used for investments, production and creating jobs. That was the end of income-led growth in Venezuela.
Maduro, who came to power in 2013, had no money to spend because of the low oil price. He used the lesson learned from his predecessor and rolled out a new currency and issued more state bonds. When prices went up as a result, he controlled market prices. When private companies went bankrupt, he nationalized them.
For example, U.S.-based cereal maker Kellogg, which supplied 75 percent of the Venezuelan people’s breakfast, declared that it would shut down its factory in May. Maduro said workers will take over the factory. Labor unions, students, farmers and natives who support him were thrilled by the anti-American political show, but cereal production stopped.
An average 43,000 people are escaping Venezuela every single day and the inflation rate hit 32,000 percent over the past week. The average weight of a Venezuelan went down by 11 kilograms (24 pounds) last year. It is a living hell.
In his video message for the ruling Democratic Party convention on Saturday, President Moon Jae-in said, “I can tell you confidently as the president of the Republic of Korea that the national economic policy is on the right track,” provoking the public. The entire country is shocked by the administration’s failure to create jobs and improve distribution of wealth, but he is vowing to push forward with the controversial income-led growth policy that has destroyed both income and growth and the failed policy of minimum wage hikes at the highest rate.
Moon is not a shameless politician, but his remarks make us wonder if there are aides affecting him from behind the scenes. It is not easy to guess who they are. They are the people who will lose their posts when this cult of income-led growth is destroyed. And Jang Ha-sung, presidential chief for policy, is their leader.
If the president cannot do anything about them, the new chairman of the ruling party, Lee Hae-chan, must do something about it. Lee is Moon’s political mentor. He is a fundamentalist but not a dogmatist.
The Democratic Party must provide a shelter to protect the administration and the Blue House. Then it can replace the dangerous navigator who could destroy this administration and sink the Korean economy like Venezuela.
If Lee demands Moon replace Jang, Moon will accept the request. Lee said the Democratic administration must continue for the next 20 years. The rudder of our economy must be turned right now, or the 20 years that Lee promised will be no different from the 20 years of Venezuela under the rules of Chavez and Maduro.
JoongAng Ilbo, Aug. 27, Page 30