WASHINGTON - Venezuela is courting a deeper economic collapse and hyperinflation that could spark an exodus of its people into neighboring countries, the International Monetary Fund said on Friday.
The IMF expects Venezuelan inflation to rise nearly 500 percent this year and accelerate into next year as the government prints money to pay its debts. In the 12 months through December 2017, prices could rise 2,200 percent, it said.
"If current policies continue, [Venezuela] faces severe risks, including of an even larger collapse in economic activity accompanied by hyperinflation," the international lender said in a report released at its annual meeting in Washington.
Inflation in Venezuela is evident in the streets as consumers struggle with wads of near-worthless bolivars.
Acute shortages of food and medicine could turn into a humanitarian crisis, the IMF said.
"That could, in turn, trigger a wave of migration to neighboring countries," according to the report.
The IMF called on Venezuela's socialist government to stop paying its bills by printing money and to eliminate price controls. It also called on Caracas to overhaul exchange-rate policies.
"A well-planned economic program is urgently needed to restore macroeconomic stability," according to the report.