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Goodbye or farewell?

By Veneconomy

06.12.04 | Nelson Merentes is replacing Tobías Nóbrega! Casually, without giving any explanation, and in a somewhat unconventional scenario for this type of announcement, President Chávez gave the news of the end of Nóbrega’s days at the Finance Ministry. Intellectuals and artists were the first to learn that the present president of Bandes is also to head up the Finance Ministry and that Nóbrega’s destination is as yet unknown.

This is a strange decision at a time when oil prices and production are on the decline, which would lead one to think that the government would require technical people capable of efficiently administering the Treasury. Tobías Nóbrega has been a manager who has done the job he was given and done it well, with an efficient, effective team. And despite operations that were, at times, lacking in transparency, Nóbrega managed to intelligently take advantage of the situation of high oil prices and exchange controls to reschedule the foreign debt and conduct credit operations that provided the Hugo Chávez administration with a breathing space economically speaking. He also managed to obtain –with budgets lacking in transparency- the money the government needed in order to operate without producing major distortions in the economy, even though he resorted to a deficitary spending policy that is unsustainable over time.

Nelson Merentes, on the other hand, also held the position of Finance Minister in the past, but with a performance that was far from positive and highly questioned, which leads to forecasts of not very promising results. However, it may be that his time at Bandes has taught the man who dreamed up the electoral kino (lottery card) a little diplomacy and some management skills. Time will tell.

Given this unexpected decision, one is tempted to ask whether there is a dearth of candidates with the necessary skills for filling this post? Could it be that what makes Merentes deserving of this job is his loyalty to Chávez and his commitment to the revolution? Or does it all have to do with another round in the struggle for power between the MVR and the PPT?

Nor was it clear why Nóbrega was dismissed. Could it be as result of the President’s displeasure at his statements regarding the devaluation of the official exchange rate? Or is this the first step to his subsequent appointment as president of the Central Bank, Nóbrega’s dearest dream? Is this the final goodbye from this able economist or just farewell?



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