May 31, 2013 / 3:01 PM / in 6 years

Venezuela says economy was 'disrupted' by death of Chavez

* Economic growth in Q1 to disappoint, cenbank chief says

* Business leaders see sharp economy slowdown in 2013

By Eyanir Chinea

CARACAS, May 31 (Reuters) - The political uncertainty created by the death of Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, its socialist leader, disrupted the economy and will have an effect on the OPEC nation’s economic growth figures, the president of the country’s central bank said.

Economists and business leaders are expecting the country’s government to report a sharp slowdown in economic growth in the first quarter of 2013 as a result of less government spending and a shortage of hard currency that crimped imports.

“The illness of our supreme commander and his lamentable passing automatically disrupt the economy,” Central Bank President Edmee Betancourt said late on Thursday. “The (economic) indicators are not what we wanted.”

The central bank has not yet released first-quarter gross domestic product data, which was due out in mid-May.

The country’s principal private industry group, Conindustria, this week said its members’ sales and production in the first quarter dropped to levels near those of 2008, when Venezuela’s economy was shaken by the global financial crisis.

The information was based on a survey of members, who cited political uncertainty, lack of hard currency and inability to acquire raw materials as the principal causes of the decline.

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