The decline of Venezuela’s oil production for the foreseeable future has been assumed, and to a large extent, already priced into the market. However, an acceleration in the rate of decline is possible, and a few recent developments raise the odds that such a disaster will become a reality.
Reuters reported that state-owned PDVSA is completely falling apart, with workers walking off the job at a frightening pace. The conditions for oil workers has deteriorated for years, with shortages of food, unsafe working conditions, and hyperinflation utterly hollowing out the value of paychecks.
Since last year, however, things have grown worse. Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro sacked the head of PDVSA and handed over control to the military in order to keep the armed forces on his side. But Major General Manuel Quevedo has only accelerated the decline of PDVSA, which once held a reputation as one of the better managed state-owned oil companies in the world.
Reuters reports that about 25,000 workers have quit PDVSA between January 2017 and January 2018, a staggering sum. PDVSA employs roughly 146,000 people. Thousands of workers are walking off of job sites, fed up with going to work hungry, putting their lives at risk at rickety refineries, all for a paycheck that fails to cover even the most basic expenses.
The worker exodus has grown so bad that the company has in some cases refused to process resignations. Those higher up are no less unhappy. Reuters says that General Quevedo “quickly alienated the firm’s embattled upper echelon and its rank-and-file.”
The loss of both top level engineers and managers as well as workers on the ground ensure the oil production losses will continue. Reuters reports that some rigs in the Orinoco Belt, where PDVSA produces heavy oil, are only operating “intermittently for lack of crews.”
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