By TAMARA PEARSON – VENEZUELANALYSIS.COMMérida, March 28th 2011 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – In addition to nearly half of the annual budget being dedicated to social spending, the Venezuelan government, taking advantage of extra income from other sources such as high petroleum earnings, has assigned a further Bs 12.6 billion ($US 2.9 billion) to national development in the last week.
President Hugo Chavez reported the spending on the 373rd episode of his weekly television show yesterday, where he also discussed exercise and diet, the distribution of mini-laptops to primary schools, changes to the school food program, and decreed an entity to help with the government’s focus this year on providing more housing.
The spending, made from 17 to 25 March included Bs 1.6 billion ($US 372 million) on agriculture and land, Bs 4.1 billion ($US 955 million) on energy and petroleum, Bs 1.5 billion ($US 348 million) on electricity, Bs 1.5 billion ($US 348 million) on justice and interior affairs, Bs 361 million ($US 83 million) on sports, Bs 150 million ($US 35 million) on science and technology, Bs 24 million ($US 5.6 million) on transport and communication, Bs 332 million ($US 77.2 million) on roads as well as money to the states of Barinas and Aragua .
On the show, Chavez also encouraged Venezuelans to exercise more and eat a more balanced diet, saying “We need to be careful with our weight…now malnutrition doesn’t exist in the country, but be careful of obesity.” He suggested people avoid fats and consume less wheat products.
At the same time he urged a changing of the current School Food Program (PAE), which provides free breakfast, lunches and snacks to Bolivarian primary school students, to the School Food System (SAE) in order to decrease costs and improve the program.
Currently 70% of schools in Merida state for example, that should be receiving the program, are not, due to various reasons including bureaucratic problems and food providers finding it hard to provide the meals at the prices provided by the state. Chavez said the obtaining of the food for the schools should function more like in the army, where they buy food wholesale.
Also, the system should be connected to the state run distributor of food, PDVAL, and other such companies, in order to decrease costs, he said.
He also announced that the first credit hand overs for Mission Agro Venezuela will be carried out on 8 April. The mission was launched in January this year to to continue stimulating food sovereignty and security mainly through investing in strategic food crops and increasing the amount of harvested land and national production. Until now, over 400 centres nationwide have been receiving enrolments in the program.
Then, just a few days later, on 12 April the government will activate its Housing Mission, announced in February as a strategy to solve the housing shortage in Venezuela. In the lead up to its activation, the president decreed the creation of the Superior Entity of the National System of Housing on his show.
The purpose of the entity is to locate and study land apt for housing construction, and it will be coordinated by the Minister for Energy and Petroleum, Rafael Ramirez and the vice-president Elias Jaua.
During the show, Chavez also handed out more of the mini “Canaima” laptops to students in a school in Caracas. He said so far the government has handed out 743,000 such laptops to students in second and first grade, and this year the government hopes to speed up the plan and hand out the computers to third graders.
Next year it plans to hand out the computers to fourth and fifth graders, and eventually, he said the government hopes to make the computers available to the general public, especially high school students, at an affordable price.
The Canaima Program began in mid-2009 as part of an oil trading agreement between Venezuela and Portugal and is part of a government education plan to train both students and teachers in the use of technology.
Finally, on his show, he encouraged state institutions to help transform “Care Homes” into communal kindergartens or “Simoncitos” to better guarantee care and quality education to children aged 0 to 6 years.