Venezuela’s Petro: Does Blockchain deserve this?

May be you are tired seeing the Petro saga unfold and spam your social media feeds. May be you are thinking, there you go, the joke of the decade. May be you are angry that the PR nightmare that has affected Cryptos is getting worse with this.

I must confess, I had all these thoughts going through my head when I saw that video of the Venezuelan President, Nicolas Maduro talk about Petro. The question that popped on my head is, how can human greed create so much mess? Does Blockchain deserve this?

Philosophical points aside, I must share my brain dump of the thoughts I have around this episode. Let us start with where Venezuela are economically – and perhaps that will set the context.petro

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Venezuela’s currency Bolivar has been hit by hyper-inflation which is at about 16800%. What does this mean? An economist and an entrepreneur originally from Venezuela told me this week that he has had experiences of buying a property, and going to bed only to find the property value had depreciated by 30% the following day.

That is the reality on the ground when hyper-inflation hits. Its worse than the worst Bitcoin price action.

Venezuela has been hit with sanctions which meant they don’t have free access to world markets and in essence capital. They have historically relied on their oil reserves to bail them out.

Venezuela is one of the most crypto savvy nations in the world. Their per capita crypto usage is one of the highest across the world. Put all these points together, there can be a logical happily-ever-after finish with a state-backed-stable coin. And that is exactly what they have tried to do.

While that is the logical way forward to get back some economic sanity, it can only be fruitful if the transition from Bolivar to Petro was well executed. Well executed in this case would include words like integrity, transparency, governance, monetary policy etc.,

The Petro has its own Blockchain, and derives its value from oil, gold, diamonds and iron. 50% of the value is derived from oil, and the supply of the Petro has a cap. But the state owned oil firm PDVSA has debts which is almost 8 times the market cap of Petro. So, I would doubt the integrity behind the decision of using Oil as an asset to back the crypto.

While there were close to 200,000 global purchases of the crypto as per the government, there hasn’t been any audit of these purchases. That makes the decision sound like a scam. There have been several other complaints about the petro. But for me, if a state backed stable coin cannot demonstrate sound policy and principles behind it, it is prone to a major failure.

However, if this is a genuine attempt by the government to turn its economy around , and if it managed to succeed, it would become a case study for many emerging markets countries to follow. And it would be a stark warning to the global markets that an alternative capital market is born.

I really hope the anger from the crypto community is more with the HOW of this petro episode, rather than the WHAT and the WHY. If the fears of the sceptics are found to be baseless, this could be the best thing that could have happened to the world of Blockchain and Cryptos.


Arunkumar Krishnakumar is a VC investor focusing on Inclusion, a writer and a podcast host.

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