Well, I'm sorry but I need to say it: This might be the biggest bullshit I've ever heard on an official discourse. And that, my friends, is a lot to say.
Well, now it's out of my system. Thank you for your patience.
Last march, President Chávez stated that. Literally. "No one goes hungry in Venezuela", an affirmation that he might as well have taken from the official report "Venezuela accomplished the MDGs", already quoted in a previous post. Government states that extreme poverty has reduced from 17,1% in 1998, to 7,9% in 2007, and that through implementation of what is called "Mission Feeding", they've assured food to 13 million people (almost half of Venezuelan population).
That official program involves the foundation of Feeding Houses for extremely poor population, and Popular Markets, selling staples at subsidized prices.
According to the National Institute of Statistics, the monthly alimentary foodbasket costs about $268, while the minimum wage is $245 (those figures are calculated in basis of the official exchange rate, since we are under an exchange control). However, the Centre of Documentation and Analysis for Workers (CENDA, for its spanish acronym), doesn't agree: they place the cost of the alimentary foodbasket in about $460. But beyond that, the basic basket (the one that includes public services and basic hygiene products) is costing about $1000. Moreover, buying food has became more of a treasure hunt: several products are unfindable and the distribution is very irregular. Milk, flour, rice, oil, appear and disappear from the shelves. This month, cornflour can't be find anywhere.
And guys, for us, a life without arepas isn't life at all.
That wouldn't be so bad (well, except for the cornflour thing) if it weren't because, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), 12% of our population is undernourished, and 15% of children suffer from stunted growth by malnutrition.
Furthermore, we don't know what (or who) to believe, since there is a poverty rate of 31,70% of all population (that is, 8.648.255 people by 2009). And those are official numbers using the Poverty Treshold method, wich is the minimum level of income deemed necessary to achieve an adequate standard of living in a given country. However, the government prefers to use the figures of extreme poverty when reporting on this, and they claim that extreme poverty is somewhere between 7 and 9% in Venezuela.
I actually don't know how the National Institute of Statistics measures extreme poverty. If they're using the $1,25 mark, that method is indeed flawed, since we're under an exchange control that mantains an artificial pressure over inflation (wich is already of about 30% every year). And if they're using the definition under wich extreme poverty embarks people whose per capita income isn't enough to cover the cost of the food basket, well, let me say that the familiar hypotetical income (two minimun wages) only covers 47% of the cost of the venezuelan food basket.
I, as usual, feel that the statements made by my government are nothing else than its usual hypocresy. The MDG Monitor indicates that the UN doesn't have enough information on this matter to say that Venezuela has eradicated extreme poverty and hunger, but however, the government still says that the UN has, literally, "recognized our achievement of the Millenium Goals".
We're, by now, pretty much used to the fact our government says that everything we see every day in the streets is a "sensation". Insecurity, hunger, pollution. But I've never had the guts to, whenever a kid in the streets comes to me and asks me for a coin that I actually don't have anymore to give, say him in the face that he's a creation of my delusional mind.