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Venezuela's economy shrinks 18.6% in 2016, inflation hits 800%

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Venezuela's economy shrinks 18.6% in 2016, inflation hits 800%

Venezuela's GDP shrank 18.6% in 2016, marking the economy's steepest contraction in more than a decade, while inflation reached 800%, the highest reading on record, Reuters reported, citing preliminary central bank figures seen by the newswire.

The final figures may vary as the data must still be approved by the central bank's board, "a source with firsthand knowledge of the situation" said.

In 2015, the country registered annual inflation of 180.9% and an economic contraction of 5.7%, according to official central bank data.

Venezuela's economy has suffered from an extended fall in oil prices. The oil sector, which accounts for almost all of the hard currency Venezuela receives, contracted 12.7% in 2016, while the non-oil sector contracted 19.5%, according to the preliminary figures.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, who recently tapped political ally Ricardo Sanguino to be the central bank's new head, has accused his opponents of conspiring with the U.S. to wage an "economic war" against the South American country.

"In a year we have raised minimum wage five times, and I say today that [those increases] are well above 2016 inflation," Maduro said during a recent press conference.