By officially modifying residential electricity rates, it appears the Cuban government has gone from scolding to spanking.
Previously, a lackluster program was aired on television every night precisely before the popular telenovela so that everybody would see it. Its main point was to nag us every week about our forgetting to turn off our lights. In other words, through mind-numbing and overly technical explanations about of electricity generation and expenditure, they were attempting make people more aware of the need to conserve energy.
It almost goes without saying that the strategy didn’t work. Therefore the State has decided to take corrective measures that, according to the announcement in the official Granma newspaper, will only affect 5 percent of the residential sector. This population is made up of those who use more than 300 kilowatt-hours per month.
At the risk of redundancy, it’s necessary to emphasize that most Cubans appear not to fall within this group. The measure will only affect those people with greater numbers of household appliances, and therefore people who supposedly have higher incomes.
It’s an unquestionable fact that a country with shortages and limitations such as ours has to consider every possible strategy to reduce expenses and to at least make the economy sustainable. But what turns out contradictory is to decide on this new rate after having implemented measures not too long ago related to what was called the “Energy Revolution.”
This effort —which involved replacing high-energy-consuming household appliances for new energy efficient ones— promised to reduce excessive costs while allowing each citizen to enjoy their new appliances.
However for many people in the relatively upscale community of Miramar, where the effects of this new rate will probably be felt the most, air conditioners have already become no more than wall ornaments. At the current rate, average energy consumption even in winter is more than 250 kilowatt hours, what translates into an inordinately high bill, which of course their salaries cannot cover.
Despite the businesses that reign in that neighborhood (room rentals to foreign tourists, etc.), the majority of that community’s residents aren’t rich; in the main they are regular working people whose incomes are no more than 500 pesos a month. (300 Kwh cost more than 100 Cuban pesos, meaning it’s 20 percent of the average Cuban’s monthly take-home wage)
On top of this, the government continues exacting burdensome payments for those appliances (which by the way weren’t given out freely; rather, people’s wages are garnished month after month to pay for them). And if to this we add the poor quality of those same appliances, which have already generated considerable dissatisfaction, we have to ask: How much more can we take?