Sun, May 03, 2015 - Page 7 News List

Venezuela again increases minimum wage amid inflation

AP, CARACAS

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Friday raised the minimum wage for the second time this year to help workers being battered by the world’s highest inflation.

Speaking at a May Day rally, the socialist leader said he is boosting the minimum wage and pensions for retirees by 30 percent, with two-thirds of the increase coming this month and the rest on July 1.

He added that he would raise salaries for government employees and military personnel.

The wage increase, while a welcome relief for many workers, fell short of expectations that the embattled Maduro might use Friday’s celebrations to expand state control of the slumping economy.

In recent days, Maduro has stepped up attacks on the country’s business elite, prompting the head of the nation’s biggest food manufacturer, Empresas Polar, to publish a rare public letter to the president calling for dialogue.

“Sometimes, we do not see the face of the monster that wants to destroy the economy and irritate the people,” Maduro told supporters at Friday’s rally.

He promised more measures in the coming days that he said would wrest control of the economy from the “oligarchs” and “bigwigs” who he accuses of trying to topple the government.

The pay increase follows a 15 percent hike in January and will take Venezuela’s minimum wage to 7,324 bolivars a month. That is US$1,162 at the country’s official exchange rate, but less than US$30 at the black market rate widely used to set many prices.

Economists say the wage increases are only likely to feed the inflationary spiral that coupled with widespread shortages of goods is wreaking havoc on Venezuelans as the oil-dependent economy struggles.

Inflation last year totaled 69 percent, the highest in the world.

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