Interview with Vice-Minister for Finance, Ivan Acosta Montalvan

Tortilla con Sal, July 12th 2011

Tortilla con Sal : Can you comment on opposition criticism of the transparency of the use of ALBA funds?

Ivan Acosta : The opposition is either ill-informed or irresponsible. Because in recent years we have had ALBA development cooperation coexisting with an International Monetary Fund agreement and those agreements demand transparency. You cannot have a programme with the IMF if you don't have transparency.

You can see that in each of the six reviews by the IMF, Nicaragua has complied ahead of time with the financial requirements , the economic requirements and the legal requirements. That shows that the economic policy of Comandante Ortega's government is highly responsible, taking care to maintain stability, fiscal and monetary stability and above all adhering to legality in the use of development cooperation resources.

The ALBA funds are part of the Central Bank's reporting, that is to say that all the IMF's member countries have access to Nicaragua's report on the use of the Bolivarian cooperation resources. So, we think that demonstrates the good attitude and commitment of the Nicaraguan government to transparency and the good use of development cooperation resources in the country.

TcS : The opposition also question ALBA's contribution to the country's economic stability. Can you sum up ALBA's importance for Nicaragua's economy?

Ivan Acosta : I don't think the opposition are coherent because one moment they are saying they don't see what's been built and the next they are saying they all want to maintain ALBA's development cooperation.  But the most important thing is for people in Nicaragua to recognise the impact of the development cooperation of the Bolivarian People's Alliance on the country. They see it every day they get up to go out into economic activity.

They find it in transport in the capital city and transport in general has had resources relating to  Bolivarian development cooperation. There are the preferential tranpsort fares and the preferential proce of electricity. We're talking about finance for production

We're talking about roofing programmes for the country involving millions, more than three million sheets of galvanised roofing for people in Nicaragua. We're talking about housing for people. We're talking about paved streets for people.

But above all there are two programmes which are emblematic which benefit Nicaraguan women: the Productive Food Programme or Productive Bonus is also supported by ALBA cooperation funds. And we are also talking about Zero Usury which is linked to credit, micro-credit for many women who were always excluded economically and socially.

We're talking about more than 200,000 heads of household who have benefited directly from ALBA programmes through Zero Usury and the Productive Bonus, as it is commonly known.

Public sector employees too have received a Solidarity Bonus that benefits over 160,000 heads of household.

So we're talking about a very important quantity of resources aimed at improving the purchasing power of beneficiaries directly in the country. And what does that mean for the economy? It means that thanks to ALBA's private investment role the economy has grown more than we had reckoned, including during the IMF review.

Because in 2010 it was said that the economy grew 3% and in fact it grew 4.5% because those producers financed by ALBA managed exports of US$256 million to Venezuela. And before how much were they exporting? Less than US$8 million. So really we are talking about a change in the economy. Exports have grown thanks to timely intervention in the country's finances, in finance for production. We're talking about more cattle for export, more coffee for export. We're talking about more exports of agricultural produce. In our country, who exports that? Small rural producers.

Furthermore, here 2009 saw exports of a significant amount, around US$50 million, of beans for the first time not just to Venezuela but to Central America thanks to that timely finance of Bolivarian development cooperation via the programmes of ALBA-Caruna, ALBA programmes for small producers who had no access to the commercial banks.

We're talking about a fundamental issue that has to do with the stability of energy prices. Right now we are funding every part of the economy related to energy. That is to say, the external shock  of oil prices associated with energy have been absorbed thanks to funding from ALBA.

That's why on the electricity bills from the electrical energy utility there's a section that indicates the ALBA funding component that has allowed the country to maintain economic stability and permitted growth. The country deserves to grow. ALBA supports economic growth and social justice, because not just growth is important but the correct distribution too. Who benefit from the ALBA projects? The country's most impoverished people.