Venezuela faces racing inflation, slowing growth
Analysts predict Venezuela's economy is headed for a worse year than the government admits, as falling oil prices stall growth and inflation soars in the import-dependent country.
Venezuela saw growth of 4.8 percent in 2008 - down nearly half from 8.4 percent in 2007 - as its economy began to cool after expanding rapidly for years and as prices plummeted for the country's top export, oil.
Finance Minister Ali Rodriguez is forecasting 6 percent growth for 2009, but the U.N. Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean predicts a 3 percent expansion.
OPEC-mandated cuts in oil output are contributing to the slowdown and could slow growth to as little as 1 percent, said economist Jose Guerra, a professor at Venezuela's Central University and a former Central Bank official.
Inflation has meanwhile soared to 30.9 percent, the highest in Latin America, and prices in Caracas are climbing at their quickest pace in 12 years.