- Title: Maduro addresses Venezuela's economic crisis during annual message to nation
- Date: 15th January 2017
- Summary: CARACAS, VENEZUELA (JANUARY 15, 2017) (REUTERS) MADURO AT PODIUM AUDIENCE
- Embargoed: 29th January 2017 23:56
- Keywords: Nicolas Maduro economic crisis message to nation
- Location: CARACAS, VENEZUELA
- City: CARACAS, VENEZUELA
- Country: Venezuela
- Topics: Government/Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA0055Z6YGXZ
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Venezuela's hard currency income fell 60 percent in 2016 compared with the previous year, President Nicolas Maduro said on Sunday (January 15), blaming low oil prices.
The country with the world's largest crude reserves receives over 90 percent of its foreign income from oil, whose price has fallen since mid-2014, worsening a recession in the OPEC country.
Venezuelans are struggling amid shortages of basic food products, spiraling inflation and a depreciating currency that has dragged down monthly minimum wages to below $10, and violent crime.
Venezuela received $5.29 billion in hard currency last year, a far cry from the $13.32 billion in 2015, Maduro said during a speech to the Supreme Court, pointing to a graph.
Wearing a sash with the Venezuelan colors, the unpopular socialist Maduro praised Venezuelans for their "courage" last year.
"Let's think what a deficit of 87 percent in the country's foreign exchange earnings means, caused by the fall in oil prices, and this year we stepped up with $5.291 billion (SPEAKING OVER IMAGE OF CHART, AUDIENCE APPLAUDING) and did not close a school, a university, we did not end the pension system, we continue to build homes and break the record of housing. Miracle, miracle of God, miracle of the revolution, miracle of the people," he said.
Also, Maduro said that Venezuela will next week circulate a new proposal to crude producers in a bid to support oil prices.
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries agreed on Nov. 30 to cut output by 1.2 million barrels per day to 32.5 million bpd for the first six months of 2017, in addition to 558,000 bpd of cuts agreed to by independent producers such as Russia, Oman and Mexico.
"Venezuela, as of next week, will circulate a letter with a new proposal, a new formula for the stability of real and just prices so that it can be studied and debated by all the governments that have signed this deal," Maduro said in a speech.
Maduro repeated that leaders of OPEC and non-OPEC countries should hold a summit in the first quarter of the year in Qatar to decide on strategy for the oil market.
"A meeting is necessary ... with heads of states and governments of countries that signed this agreement, 25 countries. We need to see each other's faces," he said.
Venezuela has long pushed for high prices of oil, which accounts for over 90 percent of its export income amid a brutal recession.
Maduro also said he would put out an emergency economic decree as the country's economic crisis continues.
"And that is why I am announcing that the first emergency decree will be published in the official newspaper tomorrow to continue riding the crisis (SPEAKING OVER IMAGES OF AUDIENCE APPLAUDING), to continue advancing in overcoming it and I will send it to the Supreme Court of Justice for its constitutional pertinence," he said.
Maduro also announced that the Venezuelan government would postpone once again the elimination of the 100 bolivar bill. His first attempt to withdraw the bills generated violent protests and looting in the country.
"I welcome the entry of the new bills in a progressive manner from tomorrow, Monday, January 16 and I have decided to extend [SPEAKING OVER IMAGES OF AUDIENCE APPLAUDING] one month more until February 20 the circulation of the 100 [bolivar] notes," he said.
At the beginning of December, the Socialist president announced that he would withdraw the 100 bolivar bills to fight Colombian mafias who were profiting from the paper.
Initially, Maduro arranged 10 days to get rid of the bills, but after protests and looting at the lack of cash during the two days that the bills ceased to have value, extended its validity until early January.
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