Venezuela suffers further setbacks
Having struck vast oil reserves, Venezuela looked set to develop both facilities and infrastructure that could rival the best the west had to offer. President Hugo Chávez, a Socialist leader prophesized oil money allowing the state to transform the country into a network of agricultural and industrial communes, many of which were to be awarded to Brazilian developer Odebrecht SA.
With over $11 billion upfront for a whole array of projects across the country it seemed unthinkable they wouldn’t be completed. Fast-forward to 2016 and as little as 15% of the proposed projects can be classed complete. One of the most prominent projects left to gather dust is the unfinished 8-mile bridge structure over the Orinoco River. The bridge, located just four hours’ drive from the closest city in the southern Bolivar state, was a means to connect some of the remotest parts of the country. It now stands as a reminder of how badly the states funds were managed.
To make matters worse, Odebrecht SA, which last month admitted to giving out almost $800 million in bribes to secure contracts in 12 countries look set to avoid both completing any works or returning funds paid in good faith by the Venezuelan government.
Their only real cost is agreeing to pay the biggest corruption fine in history to authorities in Brazil, the U.S. and Switzerland. There are still real concerns much of the corruption has been successfully shielded, with Odebrecht contributing millions to election candidates across South America. There could be further illicit projects yet to be uncovered.
It seems the Venezuelan people are the only ones feeling any real punishment. Aside from the down markets and the plummeting currency, large numbers of families relocated to these new locations in the hope the new state projects would have a real impact on the quality of their lives. With new farming land laying dormant as much of it is yet to receive irrigation facilities, many have little choice but to return to their former homes. It seems unless new funds and developers can be arranged, little will change for the people of Venezuela.