CARACAS, Venezuela — President Hugo ChÃ¡vez announced a series of economic measures Saturday night, including a reduction in this year’s federal budget and a modest increase in the value-added tax, that are aimed at offsetting a recent plunge in the government’s oil revenues.
Mr. ChÃ¡vez said the changes were needed to shield Venezuela from the global financial crisis. Growth slowed in the most recent quarter to its most sluggish rate in five years.
But Mr. ChÃ¡vez ruled out deeper adjustments, like a devaluation of the currency, the bolÃvar, or an increase in subsidized gasoline prices, which are among the world’s cheapest.
“Fortunately we have lots of maneuvering room,” Mr. ChÃ¡vez said in a two-and-a-half-hour address on national television, during which he browbeat senior officials about their high salaries and jokingly floated the idea of tapping the expanding ranks of the American unemployed by hiring English teachers from California for public schools here.
The new measures also include a plan to expand the government’s domestic debt by about $10 billion.
It was unclear precisely how these additional funds would be obtained, although the president referred to the possibility of compelling private banks to transfer resources to his government for agricultural projects.
Faced with low oil prices, Mr. ChÃ¡vez said he was basing the new budget on an oil price of $40 a barrel this year, instead of $60. Venezuela’s oil, which generally trades at a discount to other blends because it is costlier to refine, currently sells for about $43 a barrel, he said.
The budget would be reduced by 6.7 percent, largely through cuts in office remodeling, purchases of new vehicles, foreign travel for government officials and other nonessential expenses, Mr. ChÃ¡vez said. He also lambasted civil servants for partaking in luxuries like whiskey-fueled holiday parties.
As part of the adjustments, Mr. ChÃ¡vez said his government would also raise the minimum wage this year by 20 percent from its current level of about $372 a month at the official exchange rate.
But annual inflation of 29.5 percent in metropolitan Caracas, while slowing slightly in recent months, would still outstrip the wage increase.
Mr. ChÃ¡vez insisted that “not one hair has been touched” in Venezuela by the global crisis, despite signs of distress like delays in payments to foreign oil services companies that have idled drilling rigs, and a halt by Odebrecht, the Brazilian construction giant, in work on the Caracas subway system this month because the government failed to pay its bills.
Uncertainty over low oil prices, with Venezuela relying on oil for 93 percent of its export income, was reflected in feverish black-market trading in the bolÃvar in recent days, as Venezuelans tried to move money offshore.
Despite the spreading concerns, Mr. ChÃ¡vez said he was pressing ahead with nationalizations, including that of Banco de Venezuela, a unit of Spain’s Banco Santander, and the takeover of key infrastructure like seaports, airports and highways that are in states governed by his opponents.