OREANDA-NEWS. January 24, 2017. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro sacked the government's chief banker on Sunday after a leaked internal Central Bank report showed that the country's oil-dependent economy contracted 18.6pc in 2016 with inflation soaring to almost 800pc.

Ricardo Sanguino, a national assembly deputy for the ruling Psuv party since 2000 and a Marxist economist, was named central bank president after Nelson Merentes, who headed the bank since 2009, tendered his resignation voluntarily, Maduro said yesterday.

The macroeconomic numbers in the leaked central bank internal report show that Venezuela in 2016 suffered the worst one-year economic contraction and highest annualized inflation in its more than 200-year history as an independent republic, a bank official said.

Venezuela's gross domestic product contracted 18.6pc in 2016 compared with a 5.7pc contraction in 2015, the central bank report said.

Venezuela's oil economy, which generates 95pc of the country's hard currency revenue through state-owned oil company PdV's crude and product exports, shrank 12.7pc in 2016. Venezuela's non-oil GDP contracted 19.5pc last year, according to the central bank document.

Sanguino was named central bank president because of his "indisputable loyalty to Maduro and to the Psuv party," a bank official close to Merentes told Argus.

There have been increasingly frequent leaks of central bank macroeconomic data that the government since 2014 has tried to keep out of the public eye.

Inflation in December 2016 was rising at an annualized rate of 799.9pc compared with 180.9pc annualized inflation at end-2015, the bank added.

Venezuela's average oil export price reported by the energy ministry dropped to \\$35.15/bl in 2016 compared with \\$44.65/bl in 2015 and over \\$88/bl in 2014.

Maduro has said he expects Venezuela's average oil export price to climb to \\$60/bl by June, and to over \\$70/bl by December on the back of the Opec/Non-Opec deals to cut crude output up to 1.8mn b/d during first-half 2017.

Energy ministry data shows PdV's year-to-date average oil export price as of 20 January is \\$45/bl, \\$9.85/bl higher than the average export price of \\$35.15/bl in all 2016.