While Venezuela grapples with an economic and political meltdown, President Nicolas Maduro has turned to an unlikely candidate for economic guidance.
The Wall Street Journal’s Anatoly Kurmanaev and Mayela Armas report that Maduro “has placed his trust in an obscure Marxist professor from Spain who holds so much sway the president calls him ‘the Jesus Christ of economics.'”
Officials in the ruling party told the WSJ that the economist, Alfredo Serrano, has pushed for more state controls on manufacturing and food supply (as opposed to pursuing more orthodox methods like freeing the currency), and that has “largely shaped the president’s response to the country’s economic crisis.”
Notably, Kurmanaev and Armas also report that Serrano set up a think tank in Ecuador in 2014, where he was listed as professor at eight Spanish and Latin American universities. But when The Journal got in touch with them, none of the schools said he held a staff position. Three said there was no record of his ever teaching there, and five said he was only a visiting professor.
Venezuela is currently in the middle of an ongoing economic and political crisis, which has led to huge shortages of goods and food over the past few months.
Things have gotten so bad that the country even temporarily opened its borders to Colombia in July so that over 100,000 Venezuelans could enter the country to buy necessary goods like food and medicine.
Moreover, Maduro has recently handed over “extraordinary powers” to the military to help combat the country’s food and medicinal shortages, which appears to be another example of a desperate government trying to take control of a desperate situation.
Venezuela, an OPEC member and keeper of the largest oil reserves in the world, heavily relies on the commodity for its export revenues. The poisonous cocktail of economic mismanagement and oil’s collapse has now left the country in a difficult position.
Both the International Monetary Fund and World Bank estimate that its gross domestic product will shrink by about 10% in 2016.
And the IMF recently forecast that consumer-price inflation could hit 480% this year and climb to a mind-blowing 1,640% in 2017.
According to the Misery Index, which adds the unemployment rate and the annual inflation rate of a given country, this will likely once again make Venezuela the most “miserable” country in the world.