Venezuela poverty rate surges amid economic collapse, inflation -study

CARACAS, July 7 (Reuters) - Venezuela’s poverty rate surged in 2019 to levels unmatched elsewhere in Latin America as the once-prosperous OPEC nation’s hyperinflationary economic collapse continued for a sixth straight year, according to a study published on Tuesday.

The 2019-2020 National Survey of Living Conditions (ENCOVI), conducted by researchers at Andres Bello Catholic University (UCAB), found that 64.8% of Venezuelan households experienced “multidimensional poverty” in 2019, a measure that takes into account income as well as access to education and public services, among other factors.

That was 13.8% higher than the 51% figure recorded in 2018, the biggest one-year jump since the survey began in 2014. The country’s crude exports - the main source of government revenue in the socialist country - fell by a third to their lowest levels in 75 years in 2019.

“There is no wealth to distribute,” said Pedro Luis España, a UCAB sociologist who contributed to the study. “The rise in poverty in Venezuela does not have to do with inequality. The problem has been the abrupt fall in economic output.”

Venezuela’s information ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the findings. President Nicolas Maduro’s government frequently blames U.S. sanctions for the country’s woes, but critics attribute the country’s crisis to his government’s economic mismanagement.

When measured solely by income levels, some 96% of the population lives in poverty, a figure unmatched elsewhere in the region and comparable to poor African countries like Nigeria or Chad, the ENCOVI survey found. With rampant inflation leaving the local bolivar currency nearly worthless, Venezuelans’ average income was just 72 U.S. cents per day.

“We have left the Latin American context,” España said.

The survey was conducted through questionnaires distributed to 9,932 households between November 2019 and March 2020. (Reporting by Vivian Sequera Writing by Luc Cohen Editing by Jonathan Oatis)