CARACAS, March 11 (Reuters) - Venezuela on Tuesday published rules for an imminent new foreign exchange platform designed to ease dollar shortages and combat black market trading through a market-based mechanism.
The platform, called Sicad 2, adds a third exchange rate to the OPEC nation’s 11-year-old controls that sell dollars at 6.3 bolivars for preferential goods and at 11.8 for other items.
Though details of the new system were published in the government’s official Gazette, there was no word on the amounts likely to be offered, the expected price or what day trading would start.
Dollars can be offered in cash or bonds via Sicad 2 at a price above the other two rates, but below the roughly 80 bolivars that dollars currently fetch on the illegal market.
Both businesses and individuals can participate in the system, which will operate alongside existing currency controls.
“We’re going to defeat the illegal, speculative market,” Economy Vice President Rafael Ramirez told reporters. “It’s a dollar price without any economic fundamentals which has harmed our economy, caused inflationary pressure.”
The Gazette said the platform would operate daily, with transactions to be completed within 48 hours of a deal.
The Central Bank will publish the daily price average, and may intervene “to avoid or counteract the impact of erratic fluctuations,” it said.
State oil company PDVSA, which earns about 95 percent of Venezuela’s foreign revenues, will be allowed to participate in the market, the Gazette regulations said.
“We don’t have any sale amount decided in advance, we’ll sell whatever is necessary, whatever the economy needs,” Ramirez added. “We have enough foreign currency to satisfy the market.”
Sicad takes its name from the Spanish acronym for the Complementary Administration System for Foreign Exchange.
The black market has steadily strengthened over the last week after reaching nearly 90 bolivars, driven in part by expectations the new system could boost dollar supplies.
The country has suffered chronic shortages of basic goods ranging from toilet paper to corn flour as businesses struggle to obtain the dollars they need.
The government last month paved the way for Sicad 2 by reforming the Exchange Crimes Law to allow businesses and individuals to take part in foreign exchange transactions. That activity had been previously reserved for the central bank.
The Gazette did not specify what day Sicad 2 would begin, but Ramirez said it would be ready to operate “in the next few hours.”
Government critics say currency controls and other socialist policies have distorted Venezuela’s economy and are behind business complaints of dollar shortages and annual inflation that has gone above 56 percent.
President Nicolas Maduro’s government says speculators and saboteurs are carrying out an “economic war” against him, including by fanning the black market for dollars.