Despite the currency exchange control, imports of food and farming products rose from 1.5 billion U$ (towards the end of 2003) to 2.3 billion U$ between April of 2003 and June of 2004; a 53.3% rise.

For some governmental officials, like the Vice-Minister of Planning and Economic Development, José Félix Rivas, these figures reflect the growth of the Gross National Product (GNP). He explained that as the productive system reactivates, businesses begin to demand more goods and raw material, most of which are not produced in the country, due to a lack of technology and skilled labor.

He commented that the new phase of the State Purchase Plan will seek to replace imports of goods that can be produced in the country, such as construction materials, iron and steel products, and even parts for the oil industry and the electricity sector.

There is a buying potential of 1.4 trillion bolívares (Bs.) that have not been granted in contracts because the bidding companies are not 100% capable of manufacturing products that meet the requirements and standards of the oil sector.

Hence, a business round was convened for1,300 companies with the potential to provide the different products and services, in order to analyze each of the cases and detect where the flaws are. He indicated that in the case that a company needs a special loan to acquire new technology, the State would make the resources available through the public credit entities, and thus enable such company to provide the required product.

The meeting will be held in Caracas on September 28th and in Puerto La Cruz on September 30th .The goal of the government is to reduce imports by 10%, said Rivas; a figure that seems insignificant, considering that external purchases abroad could increase by 20%, according to Elías Eljurí, president of the National Institute of Statistics.

Currently, Venezuelan purchases abroad, whether of raw material or finished products, add up to 12 billion U$. In 2003, with a currency exchange control and amid an economic depression generated by the oil strike, imports were only 8 billion U$; but by the end of 2004, this figure is expected to reach its original average.

Published in Quantum No 33