Venezuela readies biometric payment system for fuel

Bnamericas Published: Friday, September 21, 2018
Venezuela readies biometric payment system for fuel

Venezuela will roll out a new gasoline payment system next week, as the cash-strapped government steps up plans to abolish a decades old subsidy program.

President Nicolás Maduro said the so-called BioPago platform would allow motorists to pay for fuel by using biometric fingerprint technology from China.

"Starting next Monday [Sep 24], BioPago will be installed in all gas stations in the country," Maduro said during a televised address.

The platform has already been trialled in the states of Amazonas, Apure, Bolívar, Falcón, Delta Amacuro, Táchira, Sucre and Zulia, according to the government.

The announcement marks Venezuela's latest attempt to tackle a lack of hard currency amid hyperinflation, acute food shortages and a mass exodus of its citizens to neighboring countries.

Last month the government lopped five zeros off the "strong bolívar" currency, which was renamed the "sovereign bolívar" and pegged to the country's oil-backed crypto coin, dubbed the "petro".

Maduro said he would also explain changes to the gasoline subsidy program next week.

The 55-year-old leader, who started a new six-year term in May following elections that were widely denounced as rigged, raised the prospect of a fuel subsidy overhaul in August.

Initially he announced that Venezuelans who held a government-issued identity card would be eligible to continue receiving cheaper fuel. He later said that even those with the "Fatherland ID" would only have access to the subsidies for another two years.

Fuel subsidies have traditionally been a sensitive topic in Venezuela, where gasoline prices are the cheapest in the world at less than US$0.01 a liter.

The last attempt to significantly raise prices prompted the Caracazo – the 1989 street riots that left hundreds dead and prefaced seismic upheaval in the country's political landscape.

Venezuela's economic collapse coincides with plummeting production of crude oil, which accounts for around 95% of the country's export earnings.

According to OPEC, the oil-rich nation's accumulated annual average production this year is 1.54Mb/d, its lowest level since 1950.

Analysts blame the decline on the failed economic policies of Maduro, who replaced Hugo Chávez after his death from cancer in 2013.

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