Monday, March 11, 2013

Chavez’s legacy will live on by Martin Khor - The STAR

While his death sparked an outpouring of grief, his legacy will forever be remembered.
HUGO Chavez, who died last week, mourned by millions of Venezuelan citizens and people around the South American region, was a figure that was larger than life.
During his 14 years as president of Venezuela, he managed to institute profound changes with effects on his country and the developing world long after his death.
Some leaders and media outlets in the West have been giving misleading or trivialised commentaries, just as they tried to demonise him during his lifetime.
This is to be expected, since Chavez was felt by the establishment as a thorn in the flesh.
He had not minced words in criticising and acting against the so-called Washington Consensus, a nexus of policies and institutions (including the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the US Treasury) that promoted a version of free-market fundamentalism that adversely affected the economic and social life of the Latin American region.
Chavez’s greatest feat was to identify and break out from the straightjacket of the Washington Consensus and to formulate policies that were very different, which he believed would benefit the people, especially the poor.
One of the first things he did as president, after being elected in 1998 with a large majority, was to re-organise the national oil industry and to play a leading role in reviving Opec, the organisation of oil exporting countries.
The price of oil shot up from around US$10 (RM30) a barrel in 1998 to US$20 (RM60), and then to around the US$100 (RM300) level where it now is.
The country’s net oil export revenues climbed from around US$14bil (RM42bil) in 1999 to US$60bil (RM180bil) in 2011.
The hugely increased oil revenues was the basis for financing many innovative social programmes.
Known as “missions”, they included raising literacy and education levels, providing healthcare to the poor through thousands of doctors and health assistants in the communities and providing cheap food for the urban population through special supermarkets.
In the rural areas, there were separate “missions” to look after the peasants, resolve problems of mining communities, and meet the interests of indigenous peoples.
These well-documented social programmes and accompanying economic policies did much to improve the lot of the poor.

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