A country rich in natural resources, with the largest oil reserves in Latin America and the Caribbean – and among the world’s largest— Venezuela has immense potential. 

Nicolas Maduro was elected as president of Venezuela in April 2013, following the death of President Hugo Chavez a month earlier.

On the economic front, Venezuela has benefited from the historically high international oil prices of the past decade, which have enabled increased government spending on ambitious programs. Additionally, the government nationalized several private companies in sectors such as hydrocarbons, mining and metallurgy, cement, banking and telecommunications.

Venezuela has achieved high growth rates (5.6% in 2012). However, GDP growth slowed to 1.4% in 2013 – according to unofficial figures –and a significant decline is forecast, even resulting in negative growth in 2014 and 2015. 

Among the most important programs that oil resources have helped to finance are the broad-based social programs called Misiones. Economic growth and the redistribution of resources associated with these missions have led to an important decline in moderate poverty, from 50% in 1998 to approximately 30% in 2012. Likewise, inequality has decreased, reducing the Gini Index from 0.49 in 1998 to 0.39 in 2012, which is among the lowest in the region.

Nevertheless, Venezuela’s development continues to face important challenges, especially at a time when a contraction was recorded in international oil prices. Its economy is highly vulnerable to fluctuations in oil prices since it represents over 96% of the country’s exports and generates nearly half of fiscal income.  Despite these high prices, Venezuela has experienced fiscal deficits accompanied by an increase in public debt (26% of GDP in 2012, for the central government). Likewise, international reserves have fallen, representing less than five months of imports.

In addition, a strongly expansive monetary policy aligned with fiscal objectives drove up inflation to 56.3% in Venezuela at the end of 2013, the highest rate on the continent.


  • Name: Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.
  • Population: 29.9 million (estimated, 2012).
  • Capital: Caracas.
  • Other important cities: Maracaibo, Valencia, Maracay, Barquisimeto, Mérida, San Cristóbal and Barcelona-Puerto La Cruz.
  • Area: 916,445 km².
  • Currency: Bolívar.
  • Per capita GDP: US$ 12.756 (2012)
  • Exports: Oil.
  • Language: Spanish.
  • Religion: Catholic majority.
  • Life expectancy: 74 years (2011).

Last Updated: Nov 17, 2014

The government prepaid its debt with the World Bank in 2007. The Bank currently has no active lending portfolio in Venezuela.


Currently, the World Bank participates only in grant-supported projects in partnership with other organizations.


Improving Neighborhoods

Caracas Slum-Upgrading Project (CAMEBA)
: This project improved the quality of life of at least 115,000 people, which represented 97.4% of the population in Petare Norte, La Vega and Vargas, and 9.6% of the population in Caracas neighborhoods. Specifically, the project improved access to water and sanitation services, facilitated access to electricity, contributed to the construction of community service centers, increased community involvement and facilitated access to land titles by informal dwellers.


Endemic Disease Control Project (i)
: This project helped control malaria and other endemic illnesses, such as Chagas disease, dengue fever, yellow fever, leprosy and leishmaniasis. The project reduced the incidence and impact of endemic diseases and strengthened institutions responsible for their control. Currently, Venezuela is better prepared to apply modern technologies in the control and treatment of these illnesses given the improved training and the establishment of research, diagnostic and field support centers.

Urban Transport

Urban Transport Project (i)
: This project considerably strengthened the capacity of urban transportation agencies in 12 Venezuelan cities. More than 250 experts from the National Urban Transportation Fund (FONDUR), municipalities and the private sector received training in transport economics and planning, general and environmental management, engineering, procurement, transport supervision and monitoring and information systems. Between 1994 and 2001, more than 7,700 bus drivers attended courses to develop new skills and improve their knowledge of traffic laws and road safety.

Youth Observatories

With the Youth Observatory in La Trilla neighborhood, the Voces Nuevas 2007 project added to the 10 previous experiences with youth observatories funded by the World Bank in partnership with four other donors. These efforts helped promote the development of observation methods and techniques to give a voice to youth leaders in community organizations. The program provided participants with a life experience in which youth from diverse backgrounds had the opportunity to talk about their differences, perceived needs and views about their realities.

Voces Nuevas empowered these young people in relation to youth-related issues as well as in their key role in the development of their communities and country.


Venezuela: Commitments by Fiscal Year (in millions of dollars)*

*Amounts include IBRD and IDA commitments