CARACAS, Jan 5 (Reuters) - Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA will be allowed to sell dollars it receives from oil exports to regional allies at the most advantageous of three official exchange rates, a move that should help the cash-strapped company's coffers.
The central bank decision, published on Monday in the Official Gazette, allows PDVSA to sell greenbacks from key ally Cuba and members of the PetroCaribe program at the Sicad II rate of around 51 bolivars per dollar.
"This increases the proportion of dollars PDVSA can sell at the (most advantageous) exchange rate," said Tamara Herrera, economist with the local firm Sintesis Financiera.
"But the bulk of hard currency PDVSA receives from oil exports is still sold at the (least advantageous) exchange rate."
PDVSA has traditionally sold the lion's share of its earnings at the 6.3 rate, which often leaves the company without sufficient cash to pay oil services companies or meet hefty social spending commitments.
Socialist-run Venezuela's other official exchange rate, Sicad I, is around 12 bolivars. On the black market, however, the dollar now sells for about 173.75 bolivars, according to the widely used web site www.dolartoday.com.
Monday's exchange rate boost follows the central bank's decision in September allowing PDVSA to sell dollars for local currency at the most advantageous of the three rates.
Critics say the government is taking piecemeal measures that are insufficient to tame Venezuela's recession, the steepest inflation in the Americas, and shortages of basic goods.
President Nicolas Maduro said on Dec. 30 his government was planning to reform the country's Byzantine currency controls.
He did not provide details, but many observers have been expecting a devaluation.
It was unclear if Monday's news was the announced overhaul.
Government foes blast the controls, implemented under the late Hugo Chavez over a decade ago to stem capital flight, for stifling the economy and fomenting corruption. (Reporting by Eyanir Chinea; Additional reporting by Corina Pons; Writing by Alexandra Ulmer; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)