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In Cuba, Everything Increases Except State Workers’ Salaries

Los precios de los productos alimenticios se han incrementado durante los últimos tiempos en Cuba (Foto cortesía de la autora)

The price of food products has been increasing in Cuba, while workers’ wages remain unchanged. (Photo courtesy of the author.)

The recently finalized congress of the Workers’ Central Union of Cuba (CTC), the only organization of its kind in the country, concluded with the confirmation that unless there is an increase in productivity, there will be no increase in the salaries of Cuban state workers.

In Cuba, the median salary of state workers stands at 15 dollars per month, according to the exchange rate of Cuba's national currency. Meanwhile, the cost of living has increased in recent years, after the implementation of economic measures such as the elimination of certain food products from the basic food basket subsidized by the State. In addition, there has been a significant increase in food prices in the private market.

According to the president of Cuba, Raúl Castro,

sería irresponsable y con efectos contraproducentes disponer un aumento generalizado de los salarios en el sector estatal, ya que lo único que causaría es una espiral inflacionaria en los precios, de no estar debidamente respaldado por un incremento suficiente de la oferta de bienes y servicios.

“It would be irresponsible and counterproductive to order a generalized salary increase in the state sector, because it would only cause an inflationary spiral unless it is fully backed by a matching increase in the goods and services on offer.”

Making a salary increase conditional on increased productivity has refocused the debate on the vicious cycle that has ensnared Cuba in recent times.

The recently elected secretary of the CTC, Ulises Guilarte, pointed out the consequences of this cycle [es]:

Los problemas del salario se identifican como el principal obstáculo para el incremento de la productividad y la eficiencia, señalándose en no pocos lugares como causa de desmotivación, apatía y desinterés por el trabajo, con las consiguientes afectaciones en la disciplina laboral, el éxodo de trabajadores calificados hacia actividades mejor remuneradas pero menos exigentes desde el punto de vista profesional, produciéndose sin dudas un proceso de descapitalización de la fuerza de trabajo, lo que ha impactado fundamentalmente en las ramas industriales básicas, el Ministerio de la Construcción y otros, además de la negativa cada vez más frecuente a ser promovidos a responsabilidades de dirección.

Salary problems are the main obstacle to increasing productivity and efficiency in many places, causing apathy and lack of motivation and interest in work, with consequent effects on discipline and the exodus of qualified workers towards better compensated and less demanding professional activities, resulting in a tangible decapitalization of the work force, which has fundamentally impacted the basic branches of industry, the construction ministry, and others, as well as ever-increasing denials of promotions to leadership positions.

In his speech, Raúl Castro confirmed that medical workers would receive a salary increase, “given that the country’s fundamental income at this time is a result of the work of thousands of doctors offering their services abroad.”

In January 2011, the Brazilian ambassador in Havana announced [es] that there would be 11,000 Cuban doctors working in the poorest and most remote parts of his country that year.

The South-South Cooperation, a partner of the Pan-American Health Organization, will give around $500 million dollars to Cuba annually.

On his blog Esquinas de Cuba, Alejandro Ulloa argues [es]:

(…) De no lograr abundantes inversiones extranjeras, al igual que la recapitalización de importantes sectores productivos, la economía cubana estará moviéndose en este círculo vicioso, que atenta a todas luces contra el incremento del poder adquisitivo de los salarios, verdadero problema que afecta a la población hoy.

(…) Without significant foreign investments, as well as the recapitalization of major productive sectors, the Cuban economy will continue in this vicious cycle, which clearly threatens the increase of the purchasing power of wages, the real problem affecting the population today.

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