Direct Distribution of Oil Revenues in Venezuela: A Viable Alternative?
Venezuela is a textbook example of a resource-dependent country—between 1950 and 2008, oil generated over a trillion dollars of income for the state. Nevertheless, Venezuela currently combines an economy that is stagnant, despite high oil prices, with an increasingly authoritarian government. The authors argue that large oil rents that accrue to the state, together with a lack of formal and transparent mechanisms to facilitate citizen oversight, are a large part of the problem. They consider the nature of the fiscal contract between the Venezuelan government and its people. This has been characterized by increasing discretion of the executive; only a small share of the rents is now subject to political oversight within the framework of the budgetary system. The authors consider the case for direct distribution of rents, distinguishing it from a populist approach to transfers as effected through Venezuela’s misiones. They also report on focus group discussions of the direct- distribution approach and the political viability of direct transfers.
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