Chavez threatens cement firms

Chavez threatens cement firms
Published: 04 May 2005

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez threatened cement companies with price regulations if they fail to bring down the prices for their product. 
"The private sector must lower prices (for cement) or we will have to fix those prices," Chavez said Tuesday during a televised government event. "Venezuelan cement is the most expensive in the world," he said.  The president added that a decision by former governments to privatise a state-owned cement company is part of the reason for high prices. 

In the oil-rich country, Mexico’s Cemex supplies roughly 40 per cent of the cement market. France’s Lafarge and Switzerland’s Holcim each supply between 20 per cent and 24 per cent of the market, according to industry observers. 

The Chavez government has lately created a series of incentives hoping to strengthen construction in the Andean country.  These incentives include forcing banks to give home mortgage loans at below-market interest rates, among others.  Construction is believed to be the industry that employs the higher amount of people in the South American nation. 

Chavez, a self-declared socialist, denounced the failure of capitalism as the reason why a lot of people still remain unemployed. His government, he said, is regulating prices and giving subsidies so most people can get an education, buy a home and find a job.  Last week, Venezuela’s central bank set limits to the interest rates banks charge customers for loans and what they must pay for deposits.  Despite a series of interventionist policies, including capital and price controls, the oil exporting country has experienced an economic recovery helped by high oil prices.