November 28, 2018 / 6:55 PM / 19 days ago

Venezuela economy contracted 29.8 percent in third quarter - congress

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela’s economy shrank by 29.8 percent in the third quarter compared with the year-ago period, the opposition-controlled congress said in a report on Wednesday, as the five-year long recession deepened.

That was a sharper deceleration than the OPEC nation’s 16.6 percent contraction in 2017, according to preliminary data compiled by the country’s central bank. The economy has been in freefall since oil prices collapsed in 2014, quickening the unravelling of an already-faltering socialist system.

“Hyperinflation, the fall in oil production and the lack of confidence in the economic model are the reasons for the economy’s disastrous behaviour,” said opposition lawmaker Angel Alvarado.

The National Assembly has become the sole source of reliable gross domestic product (GDP) and inflation data since the central bank stopped publishing economic indicators in 2015.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has been pressuring Venezuela to provide economic data for weeks, in line with membership requirements. The central bank’s board of directors is interested in providing data, but one member of the board is seeking to “sweeten” them, a source told Reuters last week.

More than 3 million people have left the country since 2015 as it faces shortages of basic goods like food and medicine and hyperinflation that the IMF expects to reach 1 million percent this year.

President Nicolas Maduro blames the country’s economic woes on U.S. sanctions and an “economic war” being waged by the South American country’s business elite.

Reporting by Mayela Armas; Writing by Luc Cohen; Editing by Richard Chang

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