There’s a remarkable take on Hugo Chavez by the Associated Press, which says a great deal about the dysfunctional world we inhabit in the early 21st century, and the essential priorities of the global elites who run it. Commenting on Chavez’s legacy and achievements, the AP business reporter Pamela Sampson observes that:
‘Chavez invested Venezuela’s oil wealth into social programs including state-run food markets, cash benefits for poor families, free health clinics and education programs. But those gains were meager compared with the spectacular construction projects that oil riches spurred in glittering Middle Eastern cities, including the world’s tallest building in Dubai and plans for branches of the Louvre and Guggenheim museums in Abu Dhabi.’
Yes, it is a shame that Chavez didn’t follow the example of the Gulf plutocracies and build a Venezuelan branch of the Louvre or the Guggenheim, so that the country’s poor could have enjoyed a little high culture – something that they would no doubt find far more useful and essential than ‘meager’ offerings such as free health and education.
If Chavez had gone down these routes, perhaps they too one day have been able to follow the example of the super-rich of the United Arab Emirates, and pay ‘lifestyle managers’ to help them hire penguins for their children’s birthday parties or arrange private functions in the Pyramids.
And instead of wasting Venezuela’s oil revenues on the little people, he might have invested in ‘spectacular construction projects’ such as the £1 billion Burj Khalifa tower in Dubai. Completed in 2010 with a labour force of non-union immigrant workers, mostly from South Asia, this ‘daring triumph of the human spirit’, as its owners describe it, is more than half a mile high, with 169 stories.
It has the world’s highest swimming pool, a hotel designed by Georgio Armani. Surely the poor of Caracas would enjoy similar facilities, or at least enjoy knowing that other people were enjoying them? Never mind that the Burj Khalifa melts 28 million tons of ice per day and 250,000 gallons of water to keep its air-conditioning going – in a desert country with the highest carbon footprint in the world.
It’s also the world’s tallest empty building; the top 30 floors are to small for anyone to live in and are mostly used as storerooms, while 75 percent of the remainder consists of unoccupied condominiums that were bought by real estate speculators before the global recession, and which have not returned their investment.
This, if the Associated Press is to be believed, is the kind of thing that Chavez should have spent Venezuela’s money on. Instead he simply frittered it away on trinkets and baubles for the poor.
What a waste. What a missed opportunity.