Southern Exposure

Desde as Entranhas dos Labirintos Latinos.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Is our Christmas/New Year's break ridiculous?

I skipped two Thursday updates for a very simple reason: There is nothing o report! Life in Caracas came to a standstill the weekend befoere Christmas and activity has yet to pick up. In fact, I would say that the level of activity continues to go down. This lack of news happens in part because politicians go away, Government officials go away and people either take vacations or go to their home towns to enjoy the holidays with their families. While Venezuela is mostly an urban country today, this was not the case thirty or forty years ago. Thus, the holidays are a good time to go back to the town or city where your family came from or simply go to the beach.

The question is whether this makes sense. With all of our problems with productivity, you would think Governments would try to set the example and work through the holidays, or simply take advantage of the lack of traffic to fix roads, paint walls or whatever. This may be idealistic, but the truth is that Venezuela will be at half pace until Jan. 15th. making the holidays almost a month long by the simple fact that Christmas happened in mid-week in 2003. Add to that Carnival (two days off), Easter week (most people take the whole week off), a dozen holidays during the year plus each individual's vacation (by law up to a month if you have been working at a company for ten years) and in the end you have a very inefficient system of production. How many points of GDP is this worth? What is the economic cost? I am not sure, but every year I wonder and worry about it. I do exactly the opposite. I stay and work every year. I enjoy wonderful Caracas without traffic and people. At work, I prepare documents that I will release early in the year, compile data useful to my job and enjoy getting home early every day.

This blog is a good measure that this phenomena is widespread in Latin America, even if the sample is statiscally too small. Posts have been erratic as everyone went away, turned off their computers and relaxed. The fact is that the phenomenon is actually spreading to the US and other nore developed countries. Today and last Friday few of my business counterparts in New York or London were at their jobs. I could do little about it. This was not the case thirty years ago. However, productivity in those countries is so high that maybe they can afford it. But can we?



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