by Ewan Robertson
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has made a commitment that every Venezuelan family must have a dignified home by 2019 “whatever it costs.”
Launched last year, the program is an ambitious attempt by the Venezuelan government to construct over 3 million homes by 2019 to close the country’s housing deficit, measured in a 2011 national survey.
Chavez confirmed that 137,106 houses have been constructed under the mission so far this year, including 1,704 new houses handed over to Venezuelan families last Thursday. In a televised meeting with ministers, he explained that there are 417,000 houses currently under construction across the country, and that a special program was being implemented to ensure 80,000 of those were finished by the end of the year.
The Venezuelan head of state added that this would ensure the government would meet its target of 200,000 houses constructed in 2012. “If we finish 80,000, we’ll then be at almost 220,000 [houses]. We’ll be above the target. I’m sure we’re going to achieve it,” he affirmed.
President Chavez also announced an increase in the housing construction target for 2013 and 2014 from 300,000 each year to 380,000 and 400,000, respectively. To reach these goals, he pledged a minimum investment into the program of $11.6 billion for 2013.
The government invested $19 billion in the program in 2011-2012, while Minister for Finance and Planning Jorge Giordani estimated that $10-$15 billion would be required annually to meet construction targets.
Chavez emphasized the importance of grassroots efforts for the success of the GMVV. “Without the participation of popular power, these [housing construction] numbers would not be reached. Because of that, this needs to be brought to other social, political, economic and industrial spheres. There is huge potential in popular power,” he said.
Under the Integral Transformation of Habitat and Substitution of Shanties for Houses programs, communities have taken on a key role in housing construction in Venezuela. Almost 50 percent of houses built in the first eight months of 2012 were undertaken with the participation of local communities.
The Venezuelan president also pointed to the GMVV as pioneering his administration’s new emphasis on greater efficiency in government programs. Speaking directly to his vice-president, Nicolas Maduro, he said, “This is an example that we and all other missions and non-missions in all areas should demonstrate the efficiency that the Venezuelan Housing Mission is demonstrating.”
Chavez further declared that the progress of the GMVV so far “deserves special recognition” and is “one of the great successes of the Bolivarian revolution.”
The Great Housing Mission is driving a boom in the Venezuelan construction industry, officials have confirmed, forming part of a general upswing in the economy.
Minister of Industries Ricardo Menendez reported to the press last Friday that this year Venezuela has broken its record for the annual production of cement, a key construction material.
“We’re doing something historic in the country; with the same machines and installed capacity, we’re at the point of breaking Venezuela’s historical record in accumulated production,” he said. “In accumulated production, 8.29 million tons [of concrete] were produced between October 2011 and October 2012, the highest production statistic ever recorded in the country,” the minister continued.
The Chavez administration introduced price controls on cement in 2003 and nationalized the industry in 2008 in order to increase production and ensure supply for domestic construction needs. In part due to the GMVV, production has been rising sharply from 2010, when it was 7.1 million tons.
Menendez also announced a fresh investment of $1.3 billion by the Venezuelan government in the cement industry to construct new factories and production lines. This will increase Venezuela’s maximum production capacity of cement from 9.1 million to 13 million tons annually, the first increase since the 1940s.
Menendez further argued that this information reflected Venezuela’s growing “productive sovereignty” in the area of construction.
Meanwhile, the Venezuela-Belarus Joint Venture for Production of Construction Materials, a brick factory in Guatire state, has reported the production of 6 million bricks in the last five months, ahead of their December target.
The factory was constructed with the aid of Belarusian technicians and uses French and Belarusian machines. It is aiming to produce 25 million bricks in the coming year, estimated at supplying the bricks for 12.1 percent of new housing in 2013.
Environmental brigades and five community councils play a monitoring role in the factory, in which 142 women and men from the local community work. Social programs and children’s activities are also organized in the factory’s premises.
A further eight projects under the Venezuela-Belarus Joint Venture are in the pipeline, which will produce planks, floors and ceiling parts for housing construction.
The Venezuelan Central Bank states that Venezuela’s construction sector has grown for the last four quarters, including by 17.6 percent in the second quarter of 2012.
BCV president Nicolas Merentes further revealed in October that Venezuela’s third quarter figures for gross domestic product (GDP) were showing “important growth” and highlighted that this could “especially” be seen in the construction sector.
The Central Bank official continued by explaining that Venezuela’s continued economic growth was due to the Chavez government’s “policies of social investment that have allowed social productivity to increase and the population’s standard of living to improve.”