Two weeks ago Marta’s tiny pension was increased by thirty-five Cuban pesos. Waiting in the line at the bank where she cashes her check she ran into a friend who warned, “Watch out, now comes the corresponding rise in prices!” But, in light of the pessimists and naysayers our street seems to be full of, she didn’t believe these alarming forecasts. Big mistake, because on Saturday when she went shopping she noticed she needed more money to buy the basic products in the shops that sell in convertible pesos.
With her sixty-two years, Marta is surprised by just about nothing. However, she got quite a scare when she saw a bottle of oil that used to cost 1.90 CUC – about 45 Cuban pesos – with the new price tag of 2.30 CUC. She didn’t remember a single official announcement about price increases and could have sworn that most people’s expectations pointed in the opposite direction. So the “generous” increase in her retirement pay was just enough to buy a little box of soup concentrate and a 300 gram bag of detergent. The latter product alone now costs 1.30 CUC, 30 percent more than it cost last week.
Much to her regret, the next time she sees her friend she will have to admit she was right. Her experience confirms that the increases in salary appear – for some time now – to be tied to proportionate increases in prices.