I am not an economist, I do not claim to be one, nor do I claim empirical expertise on the topic. I would like to draw INFODIO's readers attention to the following claim in Mark Weisbrot's latest propaganda piece at The Guardian's Comment is Free:
Meanwhile, the poverty rate dropped by 20% in Venezuela last year – almost certainly the largest decline in poverty in the Americas for 2012, and one of the largest – if not the largest – in the world. The numbers are available on the website of the World Bank, but almost no journalists have made the arduous journey through cyberspace to find and report them. Ask them why they missed it.
Weisbrot supports his claim with "numbers... available on the website of the World Bank".* I took on Mr Weisbrot's sensible suggestion, and made the "arduous journey through cyberspace" to the website of the World Bank, where I could find no indication, anywhere, that "the poverty rate dropped by 20% in Venezuela last year". Again, I want to make very clear that I am no economist. Here's a graph of a poverty indicator from Mr Weisbrot's source in the Guardian:
There are other graphs of other poverty indicators in that page (English version here) but none support Mr Weisbrot's poverty rate claim. I could be missing something, but if my interpretation of the information is as accurate as I think it is, I can imagine why no serious journalist has bothered to report on something that exists only in Mr Weisbrot's head. Unfortunately, for Mr Weisbrot's credibility, not even hacks from The Guardian have taken the trouble to fact-check his claims.
*Addendum: before Chavez cheerleaders get too excited, perhaps I should've explained that "the numbers" Weisbrot attributes to the World Bank are provided by Venezuela's National Statistics Institute (INE). In most poverty indicators there aren't even numbers from 2006 onwards. Therefore, in my humble opinion, there's nothing to report. Allow me to quote myself:
Do readers remember the article by Andres Oppenheimer, in October 2005, where he exposed that Venezuela's Statistics Institute managed to decrease poverty levels, after President Hugo Chavez publicly blasted a report that showed a poverty increase of 11% since his ascent to power in 1999? The article was aptly entitled "¿Un milagro en Venezuela?" A true miracle indeed, for Chavez thinks he has the power to order poverty levels to decrease.
Or to quote Oppenheimer:
Bueno, ¿adivinen que pasó? Un nuevo reporte estadístico del INE dado a conocer esta semana muestra una caída casi milagrosa de la pobreza. La pobreza general ha caído repentinamente al 38.5 por ciento de la población, o sea a un 4.5 por ciento menos de su nivel al iniciarse el gobierno de Chávez. Y las nuevas cifras muestran que la pobreza absoluta habría caído aún más ''dramáticamente'' del 24 por ciento de la población a mediados del 2004 a un 10 por ciento de la población actualmente.
Another addendum the following morning: Boludo Tejano left a very good comment at Caracas Chronicles about this issue. He says: "It does not make sense to me that from 2008 to 2012, GNI per capita , PPP should decline 5% in constant 2005 dollars, while Poverty should fall from 32.6% to 25.4%, a decline of 22%." Make sure to go and read the whole thing.