Venezuela is facing a major energy crisis and drought, and in order to deal with these problems, the government has imposed a two-day working week for public sector workers.
Until the crisis is over, Vice President Aristobulo Isturiz has announced that civil servants need only come to work on Monday and Tuesday. Full salaries will still be paid despite the shortened work week.
While there are certain measures people can take individually to reduce water and energy costs — for instance, proper landscaping can reduce the need for air conditioning by 50% — Venezuela’s energy situation is much more dire and requires more extreme action.
President Nicolas Maduro had already given most of Venezuela’s 2.8 million state employees Fridays off in order to cut down on electricity consumption. He stated that the country had been hit badly by El Nino and would return to normal once it started raining.
“We are requesting international help, technical and financial aid to help revert the situation,” he said. “We are managing the situation in the best possible way while we wait for the rains to return.”
The drought has reduced water levels at Venezuela’s main dam and hydroelectric plant in Guri to critical levels. The dam provides about two-thirds of the nation’s energy needs.
The new work week has had strong opposition. Many critics think that it will simply decrease national productivity and say that it is unlikely to save energy since people would go home and turn on the applications there instead.
Critics also think that blaming the El Nino weather crisis is not an adequate explanation for the energy shortage, instead citing a failure on the government’s part to diversify energy sources.