Bathroom Blues: Venezuela’s Toilet-Paper Crisis

The government has now been forced to order 50 million rolls to appease desperate shoppers

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JORGE SILVA / REUTERS

A man stocks up on toilet paper at a supermarket in Caracas on May 17, 2013

Venezuelans are used to going without staples like milk, coffee and butter, thanks to the country’s frequent food shortages. But now they’re dealing with a much more urgent crisis: a lack of toilet paper.

Stores have run out, and each new delivery sees a rush to supermarkets. The demand is so great the government has now been forced to order 50 million rolls to appease desperate shoppers. One woman standing in line at a Caracas supermarket that received a fresh delivery told the Associated Press that she had been scouring the capital city’s shops for two weeks. “Even at my age, I’ve never seen this,” another, 70-year-old shopper told Sky News.

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Economists blame Venezuela’s shortages partly on price controls, initiated by the late President Hugo Chávez, to make goods affordable to the poorest people in society (in a government store, a kilogram of pasta costs $0.30, writes the BBC). But that has also led to countrywide shortages of staple items, and Venezuela’s “scarcity index” is currently at 21% — meaning that out of 100 basic products, 21 aren’t available in stores, notes the BBC. “State-controlled prices — prices that are set below market-clearing price — always result in shortages,” said Steve Hanke, professor of economics at Johns Hopkins University, told the Associated Press. “The shortage problem will only get worse, as it did over the years in the Soviet Union.”

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But socialist President Nicolás Maduro (who was hand-picked by Chavez to succeed him) blamed the toilet-paper shortage on “antigovernment forces,” reports the Associated Press. While pledging to rectify the situation, Commerce Minister Alejandro Fleming pointed the finger at the media, which he accused of purposely creating “excessive demand” for toilet paper in order to disrupt the country. Whatever the cause of the current crisis, Fleming confirmed that he was taking drastic action: “The revolution will bring 50 million rolls of toilet paper,” he said, adding: “We are going to saturate the market so that our people calm down.”

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6 comments
sachi_bbsr
sachi_bbsr

Venezuela seems to be a nice little country with a fairly good per capita GDP — compared to India or China.


santaellacarlos
santaellacarlos

Don't judge a book by its cover...Venezuela actual per capita GDP is much lower, since the real economy is the one controlled by the parallel currency market. The official exchange rate for Bs vs $ is 6.30 per 1 US$. The black market exchange rate is Bs 28 per 1 US$; a whooping 344% higher...so whatever calculation you might have on per capita GDP then divide the official result by 4.4 and voila, thats the real per capita GDP.

bidetsprayerman
bidetsprayerman

Like too many people around the world do now they need to stop looking to government so much to take care and provide for them. Take care of yourselves and get a Hand Bidet Sprayer, then you hardly need toilet paper anymore so you have less to worry about. You get superior hygiene, save money and even help the environment all at the same time. See www.bathroomsprayers.com. 

BuzzBayless
BuzzBayless

I'd say the guy in the photo has a big weekend planned...

bryanfred1
bryanfred1

"The revolution will bring 50 million rolls of toilet paper!"

This is such a glorious statement I don't even know where to start.  God I feel bad for the people of Venezuela who have to live under these fools.

John09
John09

@bryanfred1 With the USA supporting the opposition to carry out destabilising acts, this is alll part of trying to bring down the Government.But the opposition and the US will fail!