Monday, August 27, 2007

A Collision of Ironies

I am have been listening to all the chicken-little-sky-is-falling types predicting the imminent collapse of the dollar, while simultaneously praising the progressive socialist politics of Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez, so I chuckled while reading this article in the Wall Street Journal describing how his countrymen are buying up dollars like crazy due to the rapid inflation that Hugo has caused:

CARACAS, Venezuela—Like many people they know in Caracas these days, Alfred and Norma Muñoz are bracing for what they believe is inevitable: a currency crash brought about by President Hugo Chávez's policies.

The middle-class couple plan to borrow as much as they can from a local bank and buy an apartment outside the country. If Venezuela's bolívar plunges against the dollar, they figure, the loan will be cheap to pay off in dollar terms, and the overseas apartment will hold its dollar value. "Plus, it gives you somewhere to flee if things really get bad," says Mr. Muñoz, who runs a small business.

And I must say, this is one of the more creative arbitrage schemes I have heard. They didn't teach this in B-school.

Wealthier Venezuelans have discovered they can use credit cards to exploit the difference between official and black-market currency rates. Some have flown to the nearby island of Aruba and bought $5,000 worth of gambling chips, the maximum overseas credit purchase allowed by the Venezuelan government, according to a person who arranges the trips. They cash in the chips for dollars, then, back at home, buy enough bolívars on the black market to pay off the credit-card debt, this person says. They pocket the rest -- around $2,300 at current rates, more than enough to pay for the trip.