October 5, 2009

Only in Venezuela, part 58,271,943

Quico says: The thicket is everywhere:

It seemed like a minor bureaucratic change at the time: in March 2008, the government led by president Hugo Chávez downgraded the import status of books. Once listed as “essential goods”, all imported books would now require government certification, either demonstrating they were not produced domestically, or else not produced domestically in sufficient numbers. In practice, this means that for all titles they want to import, publishers or distributors have to submit an application describing the books in question and request that a share of foreign currency be allocated for their import. (In Venezuela, the government regulates the use of foreign currency for imports.) These applications are then reviewed by a government bureaucrat, who has the power to decide how many copies will be imported.

The decisions the government has made over the year that the law has been in force seems somewhat arbitrary. For example, the international bestseller The Secret could reasonably be expected to sell ten thousand copies or more, yet only several hundred were approved. What’s more, publishers must then wait six months to reapply to import additional copies — by which time demand may have dropped.

[Hat tip: CL.]