Venezuela’s Supreme Court (TSJ) upheld a decree by President Nicolás Maduro establishing an economic emergency, which will give the president the authority to take special measures for 60 days.
The National Assembly —under opposition control for the first time in 17 years— had previously rejected Maduro’s request for an economic emergency in January. In reaching its decision on Thursday, the TSJ overruled the National Assembly as the judges considered that the procedure followed by the legislative body to overturn the decree was flawed.
President Maduro stated that ”now that the emergency decree is in place, I’m going to apply a set of measures in the coming days that I was already working on.” He had recently spoken of proposals to increase tax revenue by raising the price of petrol.
The decree also entitles Maduro to decide upon how state funds are to be appropriated, by controlling imports as well as exports, auditing businesses, and regulating services.
The news comes on the same day that the country’s National Assembly declared a “food crisis” due to a lack of supply. The declaration was backed by the opposition majority and rejected by the pro-government legislators.
Julio Borges, deputy for the opposition coalition MUD, revealed that there has been a decline in domestic production of food of 87%.
According to figures published by newspaper El Tiempo, there is a shortage of 90% on staple goods such as flour, coffee, sugar, and meat, and 80% shortage in medicines. Other sources place the shortages on staple goods at around 50 or 60%. Venezuela also imports 31% of its capital goods.
The Maduro government places blame on falling oil prices and an “economic war” against the government for the food shortages. Polar, one of the largest food producers in the country, has been heavily criticised by the government for “sabotaging the country’s economy”, with President Maduro calling his CEO Lorenzo Mendoza a “thief,” “bandit”, and “traitor.”
Likewise, the Maduro administration has claimed bachaqueros —people who hoard domestic goods and later sell them at highly inflated prices— or those that smuggle goods into the country, to be culpable.
Opposition economists, meanwhile, point at price controls which set prices for basic goods below market rates as causes for the shortages.
The opposition has announced it will look at exhorting the government to guarantee availability and access to food. The aim will be to look at ways to encourage domestic production of food sources, by tackling the agricultural, livestock, fisheries, and aquaculture sectors, with the objective to promote economic development within the country.
The government has implemented measures such as expropriations and price controls, however this has not affected the shortages.
Official data by the Venezuelan Central Bank indicates that last year’s inflation up to October was of 141.5%. The IMF has predicted that inflation could reach a record 720% in 2016. Furthermore, the national GDP decreased by 7.1% in the last trimester of 2015.