Five New Laws Passed to Provide Stronger Social Support in Venezuela
By Corry Fischer Hoffman
Caracas, November 14, 2014 - President Maduro passed five new laws yesterday in an attempt to create a stronger social safety net in the face of ongoing economic difficulty within Venezuela. The five laws, encouraging employment, creating greater guarantees in existing social programs, strengthening the power of communal councils and community financing, and increasing the rate of food subsidies, were all passed via the Enabling Law, which allows the President limited lawmaking for a temporary period.
In a national address on radio and television President Maduro stated that “Today we started the enabling offensive with five laws to favor the people, the missions, popular power and to complete the perfect strategy of giving power to the people as a means of breaking with the oligarchy and their methods of economic warfare".
The Law of Productive Employment will deploy 30,000 people to communities across the country, with the goal of decreasing youth unemployment and creating “protected, stable and dignified employment.” The program will be executed through the Youth of the Homeland Mission, which carries the name of slain Chavista legislator and youth leader Robert Serra, along with the Knowledge and Work Mission. While Venezuela's unemployment rates were a low 7% in September, 2014, the youth unemployment rate is higher, hovering at over 10%.
President Maduro emphasized the need to create work opportunities for young people that do not obstruct them from continuing their education. He criticized attempts toward “flexibilization” of labor and noted that business owners are “super-exploiting” young workers who end up working unpredictable hours and ultimately earning less money.
The Law of Productive Employment was drafted by drawing from proposals made during the consultations with youth organizations in high schools and communities throughout the country. Many Venezuelans have noted that a lack of good employment opportunities for youth could be a contributing factor to the high crime rates within the country. While Maduro made no direct reference to this connection, the focus is to build employment opportunities to youth that also offer the possibility of continuing with study and training and to create “dignified employment, not slaves,” he emphasized.
The Organic Law of Missions, Great Missions and Micro missions, aims to further institutionalize the social programs (called missions in Venezuela) and to guarantee access and funding to those who participate in them. “This is a historic law because it gives legal, structural and institutional protection to millions of men and women who participate in the missions,” Maduro said after he signed the new law.
He claimed that the law would protect mission participants and he accused opposition politician and the governor of the state of Miranda, Henrique Capriles of “sabotaging” the social missions. Maduro also noted that one day the Missions will be constitutionally protected but, for now, the goal of the law is to guarantee the funding and benefits of the programs to current participants and to expand the existing social missions to the new buildings, neighborhoods, and territories constructed through Venezuelan Grand Housing Mission (GMMV).
Through the new law, the President also assured that there would be a “more efficient” means of handling public funds, indicating his desire that this law will also serve to combat government corruption. The social missions have been funded directly through Venezuela's state-run oil sector.
The Organic Law of Missions, Great Missions and Micro missions demonstrates a continued commitment to fund and strengthen the social missions even in the midst of falling prices for oil on the global market. Maduro also suggested that if the very low gas prices in the country are raised, that the revenue generated could be diverted directly into the new Fund for Missions.
The Law of Community Management of Services, Competencies and other Powers reaffirm and institutionalize the power and legitimacy of the communal councils as viable bodies for the management of resources, among other responsibilities.
Maduro described the work entailed in the new law, saying, “In this work, we have to be bold to delegate, hand over and take leadership from the people so that they can exercise their power with wisdom, with their power, with their capacity and honesty.” he also reaffirmed that this is a commitment to be made on the part of both the government and the self-governing communities. “It is a double-test of the confidence that the revolutionary government is depositing in the people and for the self-confidence of the people in their own capabilities.”
Additionally, the president signed the Law for the Financing of Projects of Popular Power which he described as “what will guarantee the financing of grassroots organizations of popular power".
The final law that Maduro passed through his “enabling offensive” was a reform to the Food Law for Workers. This reform raised the value of food tickets, which are used as currency in the country's supermarkets, by 50%. These food tickets are granted to all government workers, unemployed people, seniors, and others who can demonstrate financial need, to help ensure they are able to cover their basic needs.
The Venezuelan president noted that he is examining raising the amount of money specifically allotted to the elderly for food and medicine through their social security accounts (IVSS). Prior to the Bolivarian government's election to power, there was not a general pension for seniors. Currently all seniors, including women who were housewives, can receive a pension. Maduro noted that there are currently roughly 2 million and 700 thousand pensioners in Venezuela.
The increased food tickets will be implemented December 1st, right before the holiday season. In light of ongoing shortages, and increased inflation, these measures look to widen the social safety net in Venezuela and provide protection from the consequences of what the government calls an "economic war" and high inflation. Additionally, the call for “more efficient” management of social missions’ funds is seen as an attempt to undermine government corruption and theft of public funds.<
During his appearance last night, President Maduro asserted that 2014 was the year in which a coup attempt, led through the militant opposition guarimba barricades was defeated and that 2015 will be the year for defeating the "economic war".