IMF censures crisis-stricken Venezuela over lack of data

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The International Monetary Fund on Wednesday issued a “declaration of censure” against Venezuela for failing to provide necessary economic data and gave the crisis-stricken OPEC nation six months to take action.

FILE PHOTO: International Monetary Fund (IMF) logo is seen at the IMF headquarters building during the IMF/World Bank annual meetings in Washington, U.S., October 14, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas/File Photo

The government of President Nicolas Maduro has for years limited the release of economic data such as gross domestic product and inflation, saying the country is victim of an “economic war” led by opposition politicians with the help of Washington.

Critics insist keeping such information under wraps is meant to hide the severity of the crisis in Venezuela, which is facing a mass migration of its citizens and chronic shortages of food and medicine as its socialist economic system collapses.

“Venezuela has not implemented the remedial measures and has failed to provide information on a number of additional items as required,” the IMF said in a statement, after warning Venezuela in November it needed to improve the flow of data.

“The fund has issued a declaration of censure against Venezuela for its failure to implement these remedial measures,” it added.

Venezuela’s Information Ministry did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Maduro has repeatedly dismissed the IMF as an agent of U.S. colonialism and routinely criticizes the institution for leading harsh austerity programs in developing countries.

The IMF’s announcement does not impose immediate penalties on Venezuela but could lead to the fund eventually barring the country from voting on IMF policies.

Venezuela, which was a founding member of the fund in 1946, remains a voting member of the IMF but has not had any formal engagement with the international institution for more than a decade.

The country’s central bank steadily stopped releasing economic data after Maduro took office in 2013, and for years has not published information such as a consumer price index.

The opposition-run legislature releases its own semi-official economic indicators, which show that consumer prices are increasing at a rate of nearly 9,000 percent per year and that the economy contracted by 13.2 percent in 2017.

Reporting by Lesley Wroughton, writing by Brian Ellsworth in Caracas; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Steve Orlofsky