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Venezuela is now the most expensive country in the world; hands down

Venezuela is now the most expensive country in the world

Caracas, Venezuela

Forget Norway. Japan. Iceland. Switzerland. Or any of the other places around the world that are notorious for being painful on the wallet.

Venezuela is now the most expensive country in the world, hands down.

To give you an idea, the cost of a 15-minute taxi ride to the beach yesterday afternoon totaled an eye-popping $158.

(I paid less than that to rent a helicopter in Colombia last week.)

With all of its vast mineral resources, Venezuela should be the most prosperous country in Latin America by far. And it once was.

But years of corruption, incompetence, and central planning have taken their toll.

Normally, when huge companies like Exxon Mobil Corporation (NYSE:XOM) extract oil out of the ground, they reinvest a portion of their profits back into improving their operations for the future.

They spend money on more infrastructure, technology, and exploration. In short, they invest in the future.

But in Venezuela, guys like Hugo Chavez and his successor Nicolas Maduro spent years funneling oil revenues into idiotic social programs designed to keep themselves in power.

Venezuela did not invest in the future. Now its oil infrastructure is rotting. Production is in serial decline. And the oil price has collapsed to boot.

This is bad news for a government that generates a huge proportion of its revenue from oil exports.

And just like how the United States and most of the West find it nearly impossible to balance their budgets even if they wanted to, Venezuela is in the same spot.

Especially now. With the government's budget deficit at 14% of GDP, they're barely...