CARACAS – Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announced on Sunday a 60 percent increase in the minimum monthly wage from 40,638 bolivars to 65,021 bolivars, the latter value roughly $90 at the current official exchange of 717 bolivars per dollar (but just $15 at the black market rate).
“I have decided to increase the minimum wage, pensions .... for all workers in the public administration ... by 60 percent,” said the president on his weekly talk and policy program, which is a required broadcast on both radio and television.
In addition, he said he had decided to raise the mandatory food subsidy from 108,000 to 135,000 bolivars, “that is, workers will have a minimum legal income of 200,000 bolivars,” or about $278 per month ($47 at black market rate).
He also said that he had decided to approve “a process of freeing up” the food subsidy coupons so that they may be deposited in bolivars, being used as they currently are via cards that can only be expended in stores and establishments where food is sold.
Maduro also implemented a special 30 percent bonus, on the basis of the minimum wage, for retirees, raising the standard pension to 84,527 bolivars per month, or about $117 ($20 at black market rate).
The Venezuelan president said that during the 17 years since the country’s “revolution,” there have been 36 hikes in the minimum wage and that he himself has carried out 14 of them, insisting that each of them had been implemented to “take care” of the people and the country’s workers.
Minutes after the announcement, the president of the National Commerce and Services Council of Venezuela, Cipriana Ramos, said she was not “surprised” at the increase, but that it would “hit companies ... much harder.”
In remarks to private Union Radio, Ramos said that “putting up with a pay increase at this time of crisis the country is experiencing is impossible.”
Venezuela is the country with the world’s highest inflation, which the International Monetary Fund predicts will increase to 2,000 percent next year.
At least 28 people have been killed, hundreds injured and more than 1,300 arrested during the past month as the opposition has staged huge anti-government protests.
The demonstrators are calling for free and fair elections, saying that Maduro has moved the country toward dictatorship, with the Supreme Court removing authority from the opposition-controlled National Assembly.