As Venezuela’s Inflation Rate Continues To Rise, Store Shelves Continue To Empty Out

empty shelf

The Venezuelan Central Bank typically releases data regarding the national inflation level at the beginning of each month, but analysts from the Bank have yet to release any inflation information for 2015. It almost seems that the Central Bank looked at the country’s 69% inflation rate during December 2014, and decided to stop reporting on it — as though ignoring the imploding economy could make it disappear.

Out on the streets of Venezuela, it’s very much the opposite: average Venezuelans can’t ignore the skyrocketing inflation rate, no matter how hard they try.

In a recent article published by The Guardian, a brief look into the prices of everyday items like toilet paper and milk make it clear that Venezuela’s economy can’t stay afloat for much longer. Venezuela’s former president, Hugo Chavez, enacted strict currency rules back in 2003 which, according to The Guardian, was meant “to reduce inflation and curb capital flight” by setting the Venezuelan bolivar to equal that of the U.S. dollar, although the government’s strict control over currency value made the bolivar start to drop in value rather quickly.

When Nicolas Maduro was elected into the Presidency in 2013, the country’s economy began weakening at an alarming rate. The bolivar now decreases in value by 70% each year, The Guardian states, and analysts estimate that it has fallen by 30%, compared to the U.S. dollar, since just the beginning of 2015.

Although the government sets “fair prices” for items that are sold legally, most Venezuelans rely on the country’s black market to purchase basic goods. For items like milk and soap, consumers typically spend about 100 bolivares, or about 45 cents, per item. The problem, however, is that Venezuela’s current minimum wage is set at about $22 per month.

The sky-high prices of basic items is enough to cause plenty of problems for average citizens — but that’s assuming that the items are even in stock. A recent BBC News report has found that manufacturers in Venezuela “have given up waiting to be paid by a government that’s down on its luck,” causing store shelves to go empty.

As the report describes the situation, “[Venezuelans] are given time off work to queue. They get up early in the morning to queue. They queue in their lunch hour. They text each other about queues.” A handful of items can take hours to acquire — and not just because the typical Venezuelan retail store doesn’t have newer technology, like a POS system, which would allow transactions to be made quickly.

The real problem is that there aren’t enough items for transactions to be made at all.

And this makes one thing very clear: although Venezuela’s inflation rate doesn’t seem to have a bright future, it means very little to consumers when items aren’t even available to buy.