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中国株レポート
投資の視点
新興成長国基礎データ
中華人民共和国
パプアニューギニア
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Geography

The Republic of Venezuela has an area of 916,442 sq. km,bordered by Colombia to the west, Brazil to the south , Guyana to the east and the Caribbean to the north.

Demography

In 1992, Venezuela's population was estimated at 20.9 million. The population growth rate fell to 2.5% between 1981 and 1990 compared to 3.7% in 1970s. There is a high proportion of young people : 39% are aged under 15 and 49% under 20, while only 3.6% of the population is over 65 years of age. According to World Bank figures the average annual growth rate of the urban population was 4.8% between 1965 and 1980, falling to 2.7% in the 1980-89 period. Almost a sixth of the population live in the capital, Caracas (2.78 million). The second largest city is Maracaibo (1.36 million), which is the centre for the oil industry. Other important cities are Valencia (1.03 million), for vehicle assembly, Barquisimeto (745,000), a market town, and Maracay (800,000), the centre of a major agricultural area and also significant for its industries.

The literacy rate in 1989 was 91.8% of the population over 10 years of age. Enrolment in secondary schools increased from 27% of the age group in 1965 to 54% in 1988, while that in higher education went up from 7% to 27%. The ethnic composition of the population in 1981 was 69% mestizo, 20% white, 9% black and 2% Indian. Income distribution is extremely unequal, with the white population tending to be better off than the general population.

The labour force is expanding even more rapidly than Venezuela's population. It grew by 3.8% a year between 1985 and 1991 to reach 7.42 million. 57.1% of the work force are engaged in services, 15% in manufacturing, 10.6% in agriculture, 7.6% in construction and 0.9% in oil and mining. The unemployment rate in 1991 was 8.8%. The public sector provided jobs for 1.13 million workers in 1991, about 15% of total employment.

History and Political Situation

Venezuela was first sighted by Christopher Columbus on his third voyage in 1498 later becoming a Spanish colony. Venezuela was one of the first colonies to declare its independence from Spain, but this was only achieved in 1819 after a protracted war led by Simon Bolivar, the national hero and one of the most important figures in the continent's history. Venezuela initially joined Colombia and Ecuador to form the Republica de Gran Colombia, but broke away to become an independent republic in 1830.

For the next century Venezuela's history was marked by long stretches of dictatorial rule, brief periods of democratic instability and numerous civil conflicts. Until 1958 the military was the most important political force in the country. Since 1958 Venezuela has enjoyed its longest period of democracy and has been regarded as something of a model for the rest of the region. During the 1960s, however, there was a spate of guerrilla activity in poorer parts of the country.

In the constitution adopted in 1961 the presidency is the most important branch of government. The president is elected for a five year term by direct vote. Congress consists of a Senate (49 members) and a House of Representatives (201 members) and is selected by proportional representation. A wide range of parties compete in Congress, but the presidency has been dominated by just two parties, Accion Democratica (AD) and Comite de Organisacion Political Electoral Independiente (COPEI).

In February 1989 large scale riots erupted following the severe economic adjustment measures implemented by the incoming government of Carlos Andres Perez. Since then there have been frequent popular disturbances and in February 1992 a group of disgruntled junior officers, led by Colonel Hugo Chavez, staged a military uprising. The plotters succeeded in much of the country, but failed to gain control of Caracas or to capture the president. While most Venezuelans rejected the idea of military rule, there was little popular support for President Perez. His government spent most of 1992 fighting off attempts to shorten its term. The government, and indeed the whole political class, is blamed for falling living standards, run-down public services and widespread corruption. Perez has formed the lightning-rod for generalised dissatisfaction culminating in his impeachment on corruption charges in May 1993.

Economy

Petroleum has been the mainstay of the Venezuelan economy since the late 1920s. Venezuela is the only OPEC member outside the Middle East and in mid-1991 it was the world's 7th largest oil producer. Consequently, economic progress has been heavily influenced by the developments in the world oil market, with the post-1973 oil price increases resulting in a burst of investment and growth - and a major effort being made to diversify into steel, aluminium, hydroelectric power and other non-oil activities.

Massive capital flight and the closure of international capital markets after the eruption of the Latin American debt crisis in August 1982 led to a foreign exchange crisis in early 1983. The collapse in world oil prices in 1986 and the ensuing failure to adopt appropriate adjustment measures led to the near exhaustion of international reserves by the end of 1988.

The Venezuelan manufacturing sector, mainly consumer goods, metal working industries and petrochemicals, which was developed later than other Latin American countries with heavy government involvement, was protected by high tariffs and import quotas and had operated at a high cost in the past. However, in the present stage of development, a greater role has been assigned to foreign and domestic private participation in new projects.

After the introduction of stiff adjustment measures, the economy fell into a deep recession in 1989. Activity began to recover mid-way through 1990 and the upturn gathered momentum in 1991, when real GDP rose by 10.4% compared with its depressed level during the previous year. This renewal of economic growth has been driven above all else by massive investment outlays by the state oil industry and greater government spending on social programmes and public works projects. In spite of political instability, the Venezuelan economy grew continuously in 1992. However, growth in 1992 was led by the private sector and this trend is likely to continue in 1993.

There is only a narrow stock market since many companies are still tightly controlled by family groups, but efforts are underway to modernise share trading and transfer systems. The government is gradually privatising the state-owned companies including the telephone network (CANTV) airline (VIASA) bought by Iberia of Spain, now controlled by GTE, electricity and finance companies.

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