Venezuela's Maduro Pledges Change to Gasoline Policy

(Bloomberg) -- President Nicolas Maduro promised to roll out a new gasoline policy as Venezuela sinks deeper into crisis, with a three-hour power outage leaving its capital in the dark on Tuesday just as the president planned to address the nation.

After Caracas’ lights came back on, the socialist leader said his upcoming plan would ease a spiraling economic crisis that has caused rampant shortages of consumer staples and limited access to basic services. He provided no details of the plan.

“I’m committed and with a new national hydrocarbon policy we’ll have enough money, cash, in this country to invest in everything our people need,” Maduro said in a televised cabinet meeting. “We’ll have money to spare.”

With larger oil reserves than Saudi Arabia, Venezuela has long offered its citizens the world’s cheapest gasoline – filling up a tank costs just a fraction of a penny. Generous state subsidies also make utilities such as water and electricity essentially free. But after years of spendthrift policies and mismanagement, the ruling socialists are now pledging to make adjustments to stem hyperinflation and a deep economic depression.

Last week, Maduro announced that he would slash five zeros off the bolivar currency and conduct a nationwide census of vehicles. The three-day census begins on Friday and seeks to limit gasoline sales to alleged smugglers, who the government blames for growing fuel shortages. While stopping short of announcing a price hike, Maduro warned those who do not participate in the survey would not be eligible for state subsidies.

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