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Bloomberg Businessweek August 13, 2018

switching to another stable currency such as the

The Hyperinflation euro. But that would still force the country to sur-
render control over monetary and exchange rate
Cure Venezuela policy. So if, for example, prices for Venezuela’s
type of crude oil fell sharply, authorities couldn’t
Won’t Take cushion the blow by cutting interest rates or
depreciating the currency.
The loss of flexibility is a problem for Ecuador
● The country could ditch the bolívar for the dollar and other nations that have adopted the dol-
to tame prices. But the government won’t do it lar, including El Salvador and Panama, as well
as for the disparate nations in the euro zone
yoked to the one-size-fits-all monetary policy of
Inflation is so bad in Venezuela that the country the European Central Bank. Dollarization would
will knock five zeros off the bolívar this month in “slow down our capacity for growth, because it
a vain effort to restore its buying power. Is there would reduce competitiveness,” says Asdrúbal
any way to stop hyperinflation? Yes, actually. But Oliveros, director of Ecoanalítica, a consulting
President Nicolás Maduro almost certainly won’t firm in Caracas.
resort to it. Ending hyperinflation wouldn’t make it e­asier
The surefire weapon is the U.S. dollar. Maduro for Venezuela to pay for imports of food, medi-
could replace the bolívar with the greenback. cines, and other crucial items. It wouldn’t lighten
Venezuelans would turn in all their near-­worthless the crushing foreign debt burden. And it wouldn’t
national currency, which would be destroyed, ease the feverish tension in the once-­prosperous
exchanging it for dollars from the govern- nation, where an attack by ­explosive-laden
ment’s remaining stash at approximately today’s drones during a military parade in early August
­unofficial exchange rate. That would end hoarding wounded officers but left Maduro unharmed.
and restore incentives to save and invest. Economist Ricardo Hausmann, a fierce critic 33
There are precedents. Ecuador dollarized in of Maduro who was Venezuela’s planning minis-
2000 and quickly extinguished hyperinflation— ter in the 1990s, calls dollarization a “mirage.” He
defined as inflation of 50 percent a month or says the priorities should be loosening the state’s
more. Prices soar because the government keeps grip on the economy and securing debt relief and “The one
printing money. Deprive it of the printing press, foreign aid. thing that
and nobody can raise prices, because there’s no Hausmann says dollarization shouldn’t be con- must be done
fresh money to pay more for things. sidered until aid is in place. But Hanke argues immediately
Steve Hanke, a Johns Hopkins University pro- that lenders and donors won’t step in to help as is to establish
fessor who’s a go-to economist for countries long as inflation is out of control. Neither strategy stability.
looking for help in stabilizing their currencies may be possible as long as Maduro clings to the Whoever does
(his past clients include Argentina, Russia, and presidency. “You can’t work out crises like these that will be a
Zimbabwe), argues that Venezuela should dollar- with those culpable in power,” says Jeffrey Sachs, national hero”
ize right away. “There are thousands of things a Columbia University economist who helped
that have to be done,” he says. “But the one thing Bolivia overcome hyper­inflation in the 1980s.
that must be done immediately is to establish sta- (Sachs says his comments should not be construed
bility. Whoever does that will be a national hero.” as an endorsement of “U.S.-led regime change.”)
Francisco Rodriguez, an adviser to Henri The dollar is already an unofficial pricing
Falcón, Maduro’s challenger in May’s presiden- benchmark in Venezuela and is used illegally for
tial election, concurs. “Dollarization immedi- many transactions. On Aug. 2 the government
ately gives you credibility” in the fight against repealed some currency controls, enabling busi-
hyper­inflation, says Rodriguez, chief economist nesses and individuals to swap money at des-
at Torino Capital LLC in New York. ignated trading houses and increasing access
So why won’t Maduro do it? For one thing, to hard currency. But it’s too little, too late,
it would mean ditching a currency named after Hausmann says. “He has a chasm in front of
Venezuela’s liberator and replacing it with that him. And you cannot cross a chasm step by step.”
of its most potent foe. Maduro railed against the �Peter Coy and Patricia Laya
idea when Falcón raised it on the campaign trail,

equating it with a surrender of sovereignty. THE BOTTOM LINE Economists say dollarization would help
Venezuela but differ on how it should be implemented. The debate
Venezuela could also end hyperinflation by may be moot as long as President Maduro clings to power.
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