Maracaibo, April 11th, 2013 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Both candidates for president in Venezuela’s upcoming elections have promised to raise the nation’s minimum wage if they are elected on Sunday.
Interim President Nicolas Maduro announced on Tuesday that the minimum wage would be increased by 38-45% this year, saying that the change will occur in three phases on May 1st, September 2nd, and November 3rd.
With the first increase of 20%, on May 1, the monthly minimum wage will go from 2,047 Bolivars (U.S. $325) to 2,457 Bolivars ($390). Then in September, it will go up another 10% to reach 2,702 Bolivars ($429). In November, workers will see an increase of 5-10%, with wages reaching either 2,838 ($451) or 2,973 Bolivars ($473).
“I want to maintain President Chávez’s policy of defending the minimum wage,” Maduro said, speaking outside the Miraflores Presidential Palace, where a crowd of workers had gathered to support his candidacy in the elections this Sunday, April 14.
Annual wage raises on “Worker’s Day”, May 1st, became standard during the 14 years of the Chavez government as a way to prevent purchasing power from being eroded by the country’s high inflation rates, and have given Venezuela one of the highest minimum wages in Latin America.
Other government payments that are indexed to the minimum wage, such as retirement pensions, are also increased by the same amount. The minimum wage does not include the food tickets which employers are also obligated to provide, and other worker or social benefits.
Capriles Promises Increase
Opposition candidate Henrique Capriles responded on Wednesday by criticizing the government’s three-stage wage increase, and promised his own one-time wage raise of 40 percent.
“I’m talking about a general raise in wages, not just of the minimum wage, but all the wages in the country by 40 percent,” he said, promising to sign the wage into law his first day in power.
Capriles has been critical of previous wage increases under the Chavez government, claiming that they are quickly eroded by inflation, but he promised that if elected he would recoup the value of Venezuela’s currency, and improve Venezuelans’ purchasing power.
“I’m going to explain how to control inflation. The government doesn’t know what inflation is because it does not affect them,” he said.
However Capriles did not explain what measures he would take to decrease the country’s high inflation rate.
He went on to promise pensions for all persons of retirement age, an increase in a government food subsidy program, and subsidies for medicines, saying all of this would be paid for by ending the “stealing” and “giving away” of Venezuela’s oil wealth.
“How am I going to pay for all of this? If we end the government’s corruption and giving away of our wealth not only will there be enough resources to raise wages, but there will be enough resources to construct all the public works that [the government] promised and never completed,” he said.