Monday, September 15, 2014

Friends of Nick

Can always count on him;
On Friday, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro announced that he will give the famous comunas preferential dollar access to import consumer goods and technology. Maduro clarified that the reported 737 comunas — Marxist community-living organizations — will have currency-exchange access at the Sicad I rate, just over 10 bolívares per US dollar.
What does everyone else pay for filthy Yanqui lucre? Depends on who you know;
A dollar will cost you 6.3 Bs. if you are a government entity, or if you can persuade the currency administrators (Cencoex, formerly Cadivi) that you intend to import vital goods such as food or medicine. Then there’s the Sicad I rate and the new Sicad II process, which opened at a whopping 50 Bs. per dollar. In addition, there is a fourth exchange rate in effect: the black market. However, that will cost you around 80 Bs. per dollar ....
All the comrades are equal, but some more equal than others. 

Meanwhile, the rest of the world is awaiting its dollars from Venezuela;
Will Venezuela default on its foreign bonds? Markets fear that it might. That is why Venezuelan bonds pay over 11 percentage points more than US Treasuries, which is 12 times more than Mexico, four times more than Nigeria, and double what Bolivia pays. Last May, when Venezuela made a $5 billion private placement of ten-year bonds with a 6% coupon, it effectively had to give a 40% discount, leaving it with barely $3 billion. The extra $2 billion that it will have to pay in ten years is the compensation that investors demand for the likelihood of default, in excess of the already hefty coupon.
Venezuela’s government needs to pay $5.2 billion in the first days of October. Will it? Does it have the cash on hand? Will it raise the money by hurriedly selling CITGO, now wholly owned by Venezuela’s state oil company, PDVSA?
About which two Harvard economists say, What, we worry?
One point of view holds that if you can make good on your commitments, then that is what you should do. That is what most parents teach their children.
But the moral calculus becomes a bit more intricate when you cannot make good on all of your commitments and have to decide which to honor and which to avoid. To date, under former President Hugo Chávez and his successor, Nicolás Maduro, Venezuela has opted to service its foreign bonds, many of which are held by well-connected wealthy Venezuelans.
We wonder how bond markets will react to that kind of reasoning when Venezuela wants to borrow again.

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