Venezuela Hikes Salaries in 95% Devaluation Amid Hyperinflation

(Bloomberg) -- Venezuela devalued its currency by about 95 percent ahead of the Aug. 20 rollout of a new bolivar, while raising its minimum wage as part of a 90-day economic recovery plan that seeks to loosen the grip of hyperinflation on the country.

The new currency will be called the sovereign bolivar and will be based on the country’s Petro cryptocurrency, now valued around $60 or 3,600 sovereign bolivars. The minimum wage will be set at 1,800 sovereign bolivars, President Nicolas Maduro said in a speech broadcast on state television. The Petro, which will fluctuate, will be used to set prices for goods.

Tying the new currency to the Petro value effectively amounts to a 95 percent devaluation on the last week’s central bank foreign exchange auction results.

Maduro’s historic devaluation comes as Venezuela sinks into a severe economic depression and wrestles with hyperinflation that the International Monetary Fund estimates will reach 1 million percent by the end of this year.

“You won’t find the IMF’s claws or ill-gotten prescriptions here,” Maduro said, surrounded by his economic team at the presidential palace. “No experts were involved who do not feel the clamor of the people.”

Maduro failed to offer more details on a gasoline price system, saying that he wants a plan that includes direct subsidies to registered public transport operators and individual vehicle owners. Those not registered won’t receive a subsidy and will have to pay international prices. He extended a census allowing drivers to register for the subsidy for 10 days until Aug. 30.

Venezuela would save $10 billion through the new fuel price system, Maduro said.

Henkel Garcia, the director of the Caracas consultancy Econometrica, saw the announcements as raising more questions than answers and likely to cause confusion among companies and consumers.

“This series of measures is a mix of incoherent and contradictory ideas,” he said. “It is a worrying contraption that generates a lot of uncertainty about how it will be executed.”

To rid the country of the black-market dollar, Maduro said the central bank will increase the frequency of weekly foreign exchange auctions to three and eventually five.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.