In an attempt to cut down on the country’s energy usage, Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro recently announced that the working week for all state employees in the country would be cut to two days.
The country is currently in the grip of a energy crisis, with the El Guri dam that would normally provide 75% of the state’s energy plagued by record low water levels. The two day week is the latest in a series of attempts to alleviate the impact of this energy shortage and prevent drought.
Before announcing that all Wednesdays and Thursdays would be holidays for the country’s 2.6 million public sector employees until at least the end of May, the president had already ordered the implementation of a series of rolling blackouts across much of the country in an attempt to conserve energy. This means that many Venezuelans will be without power for period of 4 hours at a time. The city of Caracas (the capital and seat of government), hospitals and some tourist attractions have however been told that they will be exempt and allowed to keep the lights on at all times.
The energy shortages are unlikely to do much to boost President Maduro’s already falling popularity. Venezuela is in the midst of an economic downturn after its economy shrunk by almost 5.7% last year and is projected to shrink another 8% by the end of this year. The president himself has blamed the changing weather patterns of El Nino and the current drought. Some experts have, however, insisted the government is at fault and pointed to corruption and mismanagement as the root cause of the current situation.
Maduro also announced plans to bring Venezuela’s time zone forward 30 minutes from May in an attempt to further reduce the country’s electricity usage, while Energy Minister Luis Motta Dominguez said that the blackouts could continue beyond the end of May if the water levels at El Guri continue to fall.
With presidential elections on the Horizon and no solution or end to the energy crisis in sight, the issue is certainly becoming increasingly controversial.