By Paula Henriquez
HAVANA TIMES – If life in Cuba was complicated with its dual currency system, just imagine what it’s like now with three. During a time when basic essentials have become a struggle of constant searching and never-ending lines, the government has announced a desperate measure with another payment option in US dollars (called Freely Convertible Currency or MLC).
The intention is pick up the island’s economy, which has been worn down for many reasons we already know about. This form of payment isn’t tangible here, not in the traditional sense anyhow, although it is an old practice in the rest of the world.
That’s to say, we don’t actually see this MLC, but we can spend it on products that are sold in this currency using new cards. “We can pay by card in supermarkets now” and that would be great if this latest payment option didn’t totally exclude the others.
Let me break it down for you: in a supermarket where you can pay with one of these new cards, you can’t pay with either of the other two Cuban currencies. This is where it becomes a great problem: since not all of us have access to US dollars, Euros or other accepted currencies.
These new cards work with currency from anywhere in the world and an official exchange rate in US dollars is apparently applied for each currency worldwide when purchases are made in these new establishments.
It’s worth mentioning the fact that this is only an option for Cubans living on the island with a relative or charitable soul who want to help them by transferring money from abroad. There is also the option of depositing the money yourself, but this is where we run into a dilemma: how can you deposit money yourself if it has to come from abroad?
Anyone who isn’t familiar with the mechanisms or dynamics of my country will ask themselves what the need is to make everything so complicated. Carry on using the two previous currencies in these establishments would make it a lot easier and viable to satisfy our needs.
That’s what I would think, but reality exceeds my basic logic once again. Products in these stores aren’t the same, the quality and variety of products is different. This is where the consumer runs into another problem of having access to basic essentials, which was already difficult before all of this.
I would like to think that this is a temporary solution to get hard currency flowing back into the country, at a time when the world is experiencing one of the worst crises in its history. I can understand that, but my experience of temporary solutions hasn’t been good.
There have already been so many that then carry on and are far from providing a solution, instead becoming one more burden we have to live with.
In short… I will carry on with my constant search in never-ending lines, paying in a currency that has less and less purchasing power because I don’t have a relative who sends remittances, or a charitable soul who would like to help.