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  • [On my worst days, I make $60.]

  • [A doctor makes about $40 per month.]

  • Did you catch that? This guy makes more in one day than a doctor makes in a month.

  • And he's a taxi driver.

  • Well, he's actually a trained engineer, but engineers make even less than doctors.

  • [So I like being a taxi driver. Not an engineer]

  • Welcome to the Cuban economy.

  • Right after the socialist revolution in 1959, Fidel Castro's government seized almost all private businesses and land.

  • You won't have to worry about next year. The state will do your planning from now on!

  • Every restaurant, factory, hospital and home was property of the government.

  • The State set prices for everything and decided how much people got paid.

  • The private sector disappeared overnight.

  • The world these men live in desperately needs economic reforms.

  • You can see the result of this if you go looking for food in Havana today.

  • When I showed up, I was pretty excited to see what street food was on offer.

  • But all I could find was this. Just this. Ham sandwiches. Everywhere.

  • Here is a typical scene in a Cuban eatery: too many employees in an empty establishment with empty shelves.

  • They're just waiting for food deliveries from the government, and putting in their eight hours so they can go home.

  • They get paid the same whether they sell one plate of food, or fifty.

  • This model just doesn't work.

  • Cuba survived for many years with subsidies from the Soviet Union.

  • [Long live communism!]

  • But since its collapse, the economy‘s been getting worse every year.

  • This lady is showing me her government ration cards that she's kept for decades.

  • Cubans use these cards to go to the storage houses to get their monthly rations.

  • [Today, we get less cooking oil, less grains, less sugar. We don't even get soap or detergent anymore. Everyday we get less and less.]

  • [Have they improved in any aspect at all?]

  • The government realized this was becoming a problem in the 90s, and started giving out private licenses, fueling a small but growing private sector.

  • I stumbled upon a private restaurant in Havana, and it was a totally different experience than the public ones.

  • There was actually movement, and good service.

  • The owners had to sell good food if they wanted to stay in business.

  • Which brings me back to the taxi driver and the doctor.

  • The reason why taxi drivers make so much more than doctors is because they have private licenses.

  • Their salaries are not set by the state, and they can charge tourists high prices.

  • I paid $25 to get from the airport into Havana.

  • And in that 30 minutes, this driver made more than the average monthly salary of a Cuban, which is $20.

  • [I put in eight hours as a licensed nurse, and daily, I don't even bring in $2.]

  • One of the problems with this is that you get highly trained workers leaving their trade to go do mediocre work in the private sector.

  • This guy is an engineer, but he's cooking in a private restaurant.

  • These guys are accountants by trade, but are making a killing driving around tourists on taxi bikes.

  • This woman is a nurse, but she hasn't worked in a hospital in years.

  • This guy is an electrical engineer, but he opened up a barber shop in his house and makes ten times more than he would in his field of study.

  • Imagine trying to live on the Cuban average salary of $20 per month.

  • When you ask them how they do it, they all have the same response.

  • [We all have to do something on top of our official job.]

  • [If you don't, you won't eat.]

  • Just beneath the surface in Cuba is a bustling informal market where Cubans make an additional income on top of their official salary, just to survive.

  • [We survive thanks to this dark marketthis underground market.]

  • [When I leave my house and cross the street to buy a newspaper, I'm committing the first crime of the day.]

  • [Because that old man is selling me the paper illegally.]

  • [The official vendor keeps the papers and sells them to the old man.]

  • We tend to associate black markets with dangerous activities.

  • But in Cuba, people sell illegal popsicles, or newspapersnot to get rich, but just to survive.

  • But things are slowly changing.

  • Since Fidel's brother Raul took over in 2008, the number of private licenses has increased significantly every year, and 20% of the economy is now private.

  • But still, most Cubans are jaded by the decades they have had to use illegal creativity just to survive.

  • [We live in a country with only one party.]

  • [What could possibly happen? Could there really be change?]

[On my worst days, I make $60.]

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A2 US Vox cuban private taxi havana taxi driver

Why Cuban cab drivers earn more than doctors

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    joey joey posted on 2022/02/08
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