If you worked in Venezuela, tomorrow would be the start of your weekend.
Well, that’s the “silver lining” way of looking at it. The less-rosy view is that the nation is on the verge of catastrophe, first losing its leader Hugo Chávez (who, love him or hate him, did keep the country from devolving into chaos), then seeing worldwide oil prices collapse (oil is the chief driver for the entire Venezuelan economy), and now low levels of water in the nation’s reservoirs are threatening to plunge the country into the dark. So, after already shutting down the entire country for nearly a week around Easter to avoid a crisis caused by lack of electricity, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has now declared that every Friday for the next two months will be a national holiday.
Basically, reports Vox’s Brad Plumer, the “holiday” means that all businesses like malls and hotels will have their state-sponsored electricity turned off and they’ll have to produce their own for nine hours per day on those days. Essential services will be required to cut their power usage by 20 percent.
So how does one of the world’s biggest oil exporters not have enough power to create electricity for its people? “How did things get so bad?” writes Plumer. “Partly this is a story about drought. More than 60 percent of Venezuela's electricity comes from hydropower, and a lack of rainfall this winter due to El Niño has led to low water levels at its all-important Guri Dam.”
“But the bigger story here,” Plumer continues, “is that Venezuela's socialist government has badly mismanaged the electric grid for years. Since 2000, the country has failed to add enough electric capacity to satisfy soaring demand, making it incredibly vulnerable to disruptions at its existing dams. Venezuela has been enduring periodic blackouts and rationing ever since 2009 — and there's no sign things will improve anytime soon.”
Plumer then goes deep into the economics and history of the issue and shows how the lack of investment has put the government in this situation.
Read Brad Plumer’s full story over at Vox.