Time will tell if populism works
The first-car scheme and rice-price-guarantee scheme are populist policies and not sustainable, but why are some commentators claiming the same about teaching people to read and write and giving them healthcare? What is more sustainable than a healthy population that can read and write and take part in democratic elections?
Hugo Chavez used oil revenue to make Venezuela more equal. What did the educated and developed UK do with its oil income from the North Sea? All gone, wasted away. Were the oil revenues in Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf states more wisely spend than in Venezuela?
Take these revenues away from the major oil-producing countries, and none of them is sustainable. Even Norway, with its huge oil fund but decreasing oil production, fears the private sector isn't big and sustainable enough to serve the country when the oil and gas income starts to fade. All countries with natural resources must prepare for the day those resources are drained, and of course Venezuela has to wake up too.
Thailand is doing what Venezuela is criticised for. But how good is Thailand at lifting the poor from poverty, giving them healthcare and basic education? The poor were the power base for both Chavez and Thaksin Shinawatra. The near future will tell if all these leaders did was for themselves and only short-term, or if some of their policies were sustainable and for the long term and had a wider impact. Who do you bet on?