CARACAS, Jan 12 (Reuters) – Venezuela’s economy grew nearly 15% last year, President Nicolas Maduro said on Thursday in his annual address, crediting the growth of a diversified economy focused on oil.
The South American country’s economy grew by 17.73% annually in the first three quarters of 2022, its central bank said in December, following an eight-year recession.
The country has seen economic crises escalate under its state-run system, leading to the displacement of more than 7 million people.
“Venezuela has grown in 2022 above 15% of the domestic product, the best growth in Latin America and the Caribbean,” Maduro told legislators, ministers and other guests in a speech of many hours, thanking businessmen and entrepreneurs for their efforts.
Maduro’s government, facing US sanctions, relaxed private sector laws in 2019 to allow more foreign investment.
While the move helped some industries, annual inflation remains high — hitting nearly 37% in December according to a non-governmental group — and many Venezuelans struggle to afford food and other essentials.
The government and state-owned companies such as oil company PDVSA had begun paying some suppliers in dollars to reduce the cost of buying bolivars and reduce inflation. But the government stopped paying at the end of 2022 as foreign currency dwindles.
Maduro has repeated his frequent calls for the United States to lift sanctions, saying “imperialism and its lackeys” cost the Venezuelan economy $411 million a day, though he did not provide proof of that figure.
“We have learned to do more with less in these years. We will see the economic results of Venezuela in 2022, but the consequences of the punishment will be brutal,” said Maduro. “Enough sanctions, Joe Biden administration, remove all sanctions!”
Maduro added that he hoped the United States would release billions of dollars from sanctions so they could be used to fund aid to people who support the country’s opposition.
Venezuela’s central bank has begun publishing regular financial data, but has yet to begin reporting on the balance of payments.
Reports by Deisy Buitrago, Vivian Sequera and Mayela Armas; By Julia Symmes Cobb; Edited by Daniel Wallis
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