Marlene Azor Hernandez
HAVANA TIMES —The National Office of Statistics and Information (ONEI) hasn’t published a series of necessary indicators for the government’s tax policy.
Studies about poverty in Cuba are very scarce or limited to the capital and are over ten years old. The reason for this is a lack of information that researchers have to carry out any kind of analysis. The subject is taboo for the government which doesn’t hesitate, however, when it’s time to implement a tax law on salaries.
The Human Poverty Index in Cuba isn’t published, the minimum wage isn’t either and neither is the price of individual and family-size basic product baskets. The report about the size of pensions is also missing. Using this “secret” mechanism, the government has decided to implement taxes on the Cuban population’s social security and on incomes.
Debates on Cubadebate.cu and Granma.cu, the two leading government websites, reveal the population’s discontent. The measure has been criticized repeatedly based on two fundamental points:
Tax bases on 500 pesos (20 USD) are erratic because quite frankly a salary of 500 pesos isn’t even enough to cover the basic cost of food and personal hygiene needs for one person in a month.
The public sector continues to be the most affected, punished by taxes and low salaries. Teachers, professors, doctors and health personnel have received nominal payrises but prices in government run retail stores continue to have 240% and 260% sales tax applied to them, according to Cuban economists. This contradiction hasn’t been overcome in the last 26 years since the “Special Period” which the Cuban population has never really come out of.
There is public awareness among the general population of the need to pay taxes, however, there are two contradictions that prevent them from accepting this public policy: low salaries and the announcement up until a few months ago about “free” education and healthcare as if the State had a “black box of investment” apart from what Cuban workers produce.
Neither health nor education were never “free” but universal, nor will nominal payrises produce any increase in real salaries. Granma and not the ONEI published the fact that average salaries have increased to 779 Cuban pesos, but as the ONEI doesn’t publish the price of the basic food basket, consumers for their part, are unable to feed themselves and buy essential personal hygiene items with this salary. Not included are other worker expenditures such as transport, clothes and shoes, housing and medicine.
However, teachers in primary, secondary, pre-university and universities with salaries below 500 pesos or a little over this amount have been paying 5% of their income to social security for about a year now.
Senior doctors who have the most experience earn 1200-1500 pesos (60-75 USD) a month, but this salary is only enough for those who live alone and don’t have to support any family members. The discrepancy between social and labor politics and tax laws is the result of the Cuban government’s lack of information and their antidemocratic laws and imposition of reform policies despite workers dirt poor salaries.
The Central Union of Cuban Workers (CTC), the only labor organization allowed on the island, accepts this abuse against workers making it clear once again that their role is to represent the State’s interests and not those of Cuban workers. It was this July when the General/president Raul Castro said that salaries were insufficent to cover Cuban families’ basic needs. How does it make sense to apply a tax law on salaries if these are dirt poor in all sectors of the state economic system?
Is it because the president is unable to lead the country and delegates his responsibilities to the ONAT tax office?
If workers aren’t taking to the streets, this is because of the government’s repressive actions and the absence of recoverable economic rights in Cuba. Cuban citizens can’t influence the decisions that the government makes supporting their own interests, nor can they turn to international forums with their demands because it’s the government itself who violating their civil rights inside the country
The UN’s International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights highlights in article 7:
- a) Remuneration which provides all workers, as a minimum, with: A decent living for themselves and their families in accordance with the provisions of the present Covenant;
The UN recognizes economic, social and cultural rights to be recoverable by law and subject to review by a court.
In this regard, the Cuban government is violating this right and maybe that’s why it hasn’t endorsed the UN Convenant, so as not to subjugate itself to the scrutiny of its arbitrary tax and income laws before the League of Nations.
National Tax Administration of Cuba.
The Cuban government signed the UN’s Human Rights Covenant in 2008, however it still hasn’t endorsed it 8 years later. By not ratifying them, they have no connecting value to the country’s domestic law-making, nor does it give Cuban citizens the opportunity to go to UN meetings in order to recover their rights which are denied to them by their own government.