Official: Equal pay in Cuba doesn't work
Posted on Wed, Jun. 11, 2008
By WILL WEISSERT
Associated Press Writer
The egalitarian wage system Fidel Castro spent decades building in Cuba
is no longer viable, plagued by low pay, corruption and waste that can
be eased by paying workers more for better work, a top labor official
said in an interview published Wednesday.
Carlos Mateu, a vice minister of labor and social security, said many
government companies have already eliminated caps on salaries for
productive workers and the rest must do so by August.
An end to wage caps could eventually lead to a true middle class by
allowing Cubans to openly accumulate wealth. But it runs counter to the
notion of an egalitarian society that ailing, 81-year-old Fidel Castro
promoted throughout his 49 years in power.
The article in the Communist Party daily Granma contained few direct
quotes from Mateu, a practice common in official Cuban media. But it
said Mateu "underscored that there has been a tendency for everyone to
get the same, and that egalitarianism is not convenient."
"That is something we have to resolve," Granma said, adding that the
traditional Cuban pay system saps employees' incentives to excel since
everyone earns the same regardless of performance.
That is "unfair because if it's harmful to give a worker less than he
deserves, it's also harmful to give him what he doesn't deserve," the
The government controls more than 90 percent of the economy, and while
most Cubans get free housing, education, health care and subsidized food
rations, the average salary is just 408 Cuban pesos – US$19.50 a month.
After the collapse of its chief backer, the Soviet Union, crippled
Cuba's economy in the early 1990s, Cuba encouraged foreign tourism and
allowed some market-oriented reforms.
But Fidel Castro made clear he made the reforms reluctantly. Once the
economy recovered, he rolled back many of the openings and railed
against a rising class of "new rich" Cubans.
Mateu said that the new compensation system fits with the mantra of
"socialist distribution" often mentioned by new President Raul Castro:
"From each according to his ability, to each according to his work."
That's meant to distinguish the current system from Cuba's ideological
goal, Karl Marx's formula of communism: "From each according to his
ability, to each according to his need."
The vice minister was unavailable for further comment Wednesday, and a
Labor Ministry official said she was not authorized to provide more
Details of the new system were not revealed. It is not clear if
officials plan to pay higher regular salaries for better workers, or if
they would just receive bonuses for good performance.
Mateu told Granma that while ordinary workers will no longer be subject
to wage limits, managers will be limited to a 30 percent increase if the
team working under them increases production.
Since succeeding his elder brother in February, Raul Castro has dropped
much-despised bans that prohibited most Cubans from obtaining cell
phones in their own names, renting cars, staying in luxury hotels and
buying computers, DVD players and other devices.
He has also made it easier for thousands of state employees to get title
for homes they once rented for work, and moved to overhaul the
floundering, state-run agricultural sector, making it easier for private
farmers to tend unused government land so as to increase food production.