Venezuela's economy closed out 2022 with a 15 percent growth rate, according to a government projection presented Thursday by President Nicolás Maduro.
The Bolivarian leader also used a presentation to ask banks to grant 30 percent of their loan portfolio in dollars, the prevailing currency in the country.
"Venezuela has had a growth in the year 2022 above 15 percent of gross domestic product, the highest growth in Latin America and the Caribbean, with the impact of diversification of the economy that we have not had in years," Maduro said during the presentation of his annual report and account to Congress.
Venezuela's economic activity began to fall in 2014, amid a slump in the country's main source of income, oil, and a pressing crisis that worsened after the imposition of a battery of international sanctions in 2019 as part of a US-led crusade to bring down the Chavista leader after disavowing his re-election in 2018.
As a result of these punitive measures, which included an oil embargo, Venezuela lost 99 percent of its income, according to Maduro.
With informal dollarisation and the easing of controls, the Venezuelan economy took a breather and, after years of recession and hyperinflation that destroyed purchasing power, recorded five quarters of growth between 2021 and 2022.
"We are going step-by-step, it is the real economy, it is the real economy, which is going up and should get better and better," the president celebrated, although experts have warned that it is possible that this "recovery" could reach a ceiling in the absence of deeper measures, such as credit expansion.
Maduro called on public and private banks to "expand foreign currency financing." "Increase it to 30 percent of foreign currency financing for the economic growth of all sectors that produce goods, wealth and employment for the country.
The president, who did not offer data on poverty, highlighted a reduction in the unemployment rate from 8.9 percent in 2021 to 7.8 percent in 2022.
He acknowledged some "disturbances" at the end of the year that destabilised inflation, although he did not detail figures. The latest official inflation figure published by the Central Bank is from October, with a year-on-year rate of 155.8 percent.
According to private estimates, which warn of the possibility of a return to the hyperinflationary cycle that Venezuela abandoned in 2021, the consumer price index exceeded 300 percent in 2022.