Severance pay in Venezuela now buys a cup of coffee

by WorldTribune Staff, May 3, 2018

Severance pay for Venezuelans who put in years of work does not amount to much in a country where inflation is expected to drive up prices by 13,000 percent this year.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announces an increase of the monthly minimum wage. / AFP

Yolanda Abreu, who worked for five years as a cardiologist, tweeted a photo of her severance check for 156,584.29 bolivars. On the black market, that equates to 20 cents American.

“They called me from Caracas University Hospital to come and collect my check for benefits accrued over five years of service as a level 2 specialist in cardiology and electrophysiology,” Abreu wrote on Twitter.

And what will it buy, she wondered: “A coffee?”

If Abreu had received the check when she resigned in January 2017, it would have been worth $45, AFP noted in a May 1 report.

Abreu’s post has been retweeted 11,000 times, and commented on more than 1,400 times, with many relating similar stories or empathizing: “Friend, they robbed you blind.”

“I never thought it would have such an impact. I wrote it because the check was so ridiculous that it made me laugh, and suddenly you find so many people who feel like you that all your work, your effort is just disregarded,” she told AFP.

Mery Rojas, after retiring from 16 years of work as a university professor, could scarcely afford to buy two liters of ice cream with the money she invested in a ministry of education savings scheme. And it was five years before she could draw on it.

“I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry,” she told AFP.

Nicolas Maduro, Venezuela’s socialist president, has moved to double the monthly minimum wage, raising it to 2,555,500 bolivars – or $37 (30 euros), according to the central bank’s official DICOM rate.

“But access to such a favorable rate is very limited for Venezuelan citizens and companies, meaning they have to use the black market where the same sum is worth just $3.20 – just about enough for two kilos (4.4 pounds) of chicken,” the AFP report noted.

Asdrubal Oliveros, an analyst with consultancy Ecoanalitica, said the constant hiking of salaries is “a hopeless cause” in the face of such inflation without correcting the imbalances in the Venezuelan economy, which is running a fiscal deficit of an estimated 20 percent of GDP that the government is trying to resolve through printing money.

Additionally, AFP noted, the cost of the so-called fixed basket of goods – tracked to measure the cost of living – has just soared.

When Maduro took over in 2013, the fixed basket was 32.4 percent of the monthly income. Today the figure stands at around 60 percent, although that has come down from previous highs of around 70 percent.

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