Por Osmel Ramirez Alvarez
HAVANA TIMES – New salaries announced by the Cuban government within the major reforms to take effect in January, will be applied nationwide. Moreover, there will not be special wages in the capital or another special region to prevent greater domestic migration. This has always been a complex issue.
However, the Ministry of Finance and Prices, announces urban transport in the capital will be double the national price.
Bus fares will cost five times more as of January 1, compared to the doubled price in other provinces. This comes without any difference in wages, just because these Cubans happen to reside in the country’s capital. There seems to be no logical explanation behind this new policy.
“Public transport in Havana will now cost 2 pesos (the same as boats across the bay), while it will be cost 1 peso in every other province.”
“It’s strange, public transport will cost double in the capital, and everything is more expensive here at markets and on the street than it is in the countryside because supplies need to be brought in from far away and we will earn the same,” says Katerine Alvarez, a resident from the Arroyo Naranjo municipality. “We’ll have to see whether this “organizing” as they call it, helps in some way or another. Things are just getting more and more expensive. It’s like a shock to the system.”
“It doesn’t make any sense”
Meanwhile, Pedro Torres from the Electric Company says that “the only place where wages are different is in Caimanera, where they’ll go up by 30%, according to something I read somewhere, and I’m sure it’s because they are closer to the US base. But this won’t happen in Havana. So, why are they doubling the price of public transport here?
“It doesn’t make any sense if I’m earning just as much as somebody from Las Tunas or Pinar del Rio for the same work, yet I have to pay double just to get on a bus? It’s not fair. It’s like a tax for living in Havana.”
David, from Lawton, doesn’t understand what the government’s reasoning is for creating these inequalities. “It is a single republic and it really doesn’t make any sense. This time it is Havana residents’ turn to lose out, they are quintupling the price of fares and only making tickets 2.5 times more expensive in the rest of the country.”
“Who understands them (the Communist Party’s government)?” I have never understood why potatoes are sold in Havana, but they aren’t sold in most of the country’s interior. Nor do I know why they get less eggs via their ration booklet. Public transport costing us double here now… it makes just about the same amount of sense,” he asserted.
Another of the hundreds of resolutions comprising the reforms explains the new fares for transport in detail. In the case of interprovincial bus tickets, these will go up 60% compared to their former price.
Over a decade since approval
The reform package is one more phase of a process the government approved over a decade ago to face its economic crisis. That crisis has persisted for over three decades already, ever since the USSR collapsed. Currency unification, organizing salaries and taxes, as well as getting rid of or reducing many state subsidies are just some of its objectives.
It takes effect starting January 1, 2021. However, the government has been announcing these changes since over a decade ago. It is surprising to see that this decision is being taken at the worst economic moment. A time when the government had to partially dollarize the economy because of the crisis.
Meanwhile, Cubans are waiting to see whether the 500% pay rises will mean greater purchasing power or just the opposite. Skepticism rules for now, as prices of basic essentials – such as bread, rice or sugar – as well basic services – such as electricity or public transport – are quintupling or more, with prices increasing much more than salaries.