Why Cuban cab drivers earn more than doctors


[“A doctor ends up making about $40 a month.
On my worst days driving taxi, I bring in $60–In one day”] Did you catch that? This guy makes more in
one day than a doctor makes in a month. And he’s a taxi driver. He’s actually
trained as an engineer but engineers make even less than doctors. “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 men in this world desperately need: economic
reform.] You can see the result of this when you go
looking for food in Havana. When I showed up, I was pretty excited to
see what street food was on offer. But all i could find was this. Everywhere
I turned. This is a typical scene in a Cuban eatery:
too many employees in an empty establishment with empty shelves, 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 doesn’t work. Cuba survived for many years with subsidies
from the Soviet Union. But since its collapse, the economy been getting
worse every year. This lady is showing me her government ration
cards that she’s kept for decades. Cubans use these monthly cards to go the storage
house to get their monthly rations. The
government realized this in the 90s and has
started giving out private licenses, fueling a small but growing private sector. I stumbled upon a private restaurant in Havana
that was a totally different experience than the public ones. There was actually movement,
and good service. The owners had to actually sell good food
if they wanted to stay in business. Which brings me back to the Taxi driver and
the doctor. The reason a 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 dollars to get from the airport into Havana. And inn that 30 minute drive, my driver made
more than the average monthly salary of a Cuban, which is $20. One of the problems with this is that you
have highly trained workers leaving their trade to go do remedial 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 make
a killing driving around tourists on taxi bikes. This woman is a nurse, but she hasn’t
been in a hospital in years. This guy is an electrical engineer but 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
of $20 per month. When you ask them how they do it, they all have the same response. “Everyone has to do something in addition
to their official salary.” Just beneath the surface in Cuba is a bustling
informal market where Cuban’s make an additional income on top of their official salary, just
to survive. We tend to associate black markets with dangerous
activities. But in Cuba, people sell illegal popsicles, or newspapers — not 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 now 20% of the
economy is now private. Still, most Cubans are jaded by the decades
they have had to use illegal creativity just to survive. “There is one party. They control everything.
What change could there possibly be?”

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