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Venezuela Using Low-Priced Appliances to Counter Recession
Jan 18, 2010
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A shipment of Chinese home appliances will be sold cheaply in Venezuelan government stores to stop speculation by retailers after the country's currency was devalued last week, President Hugo Chavez said.

"A boat is coming from China. It brings refrigerators, television sets, and washing machines we'll be selling at low prices, as we already do with food products in the Mercal chain," Chavez said of the government-owned supermarkets opened in 2003.

Since announcing the devaluation of the Venezuelan bolivar, Chavez has launched an anti-speculation drive throughout the country, urging people to report any price gouging to the police. The devaluation is designed to counter a recession that struck last year amid falling oil prices and production in Venezuela, Latin America's largest oil producer.

It was also intended to tackle rising inflation brought on by a string of nationalizations of foreign firms and banks. But the devaluation has sent shoppers rushing to the stores.

The bolivar is now trading at 4.30 to the dollar for "non-essential" goods -- double the past rate -- and at 2.60 bolivars to the dollar for basic goods, in an election-year move aimed at favoring the poor.

"We, the government, will import whatever is needed to be imported. We'll not let speculating shopkeepers raise prices to the detriment of the public," Chavez said. Another aim of the devaluation, government officials said, is to slash imports by 40 percent and stimulate local production.

(Source: AFP)

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