How Not to Attack an Economist (and an Economy): Getting the Numbers Right
April 2008, Mark Weisbrot
This paper continues a debate over the extent of economic and social progress in Venezuela that began with an article in the March/April 2008 issue of Foreign Affairs. This article argued that “a close look at the evidence reveals just how much Chávez's 'revolution' has hurt Venezuela's economy -- and that the poor are hurting most of all.” CEPR responded with “An Empty Research Agenda: The Creation of Myths About Contemporary Venezuela,” showing that the main allegations of the article were wrong. The author of the Foreign Affairs article, economist Francisco Rodriguez, then responded with an Economics Working Paper at Wesleyan University, which defended his original analysis.
The current paper demonstrates that Rodriguez's assertions in his response are almost all without merit. His argument that inequality has increased during the Chávez years is contradicted by the best available data (in fact these data show a reduction in inequality). His claim that the amount of poverty reduction in Venezuela during the last four years, relative to its economic growth, compares unfavorably to other countries is clearly wrong; in fact, Venezuela's poverty reduction has been much better than the vast majority of countries for the amount of growth that it has had. His argument that the Chávez government did not demonstrate any change of priorities with regard to public spending is wrong and misleading and his assertion that Venezuela's literacy program has not had any distinguishable effect on literacy cannot be demonstrated from the data that he uses.
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