Maduro raises minimum wage again as Venezuela battles hyperinflation

Caracas (AFP) –


Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro announced Monday he was almost doubling the minimum wage in an effort to tackle the crisis-wracked Latin American country's runaway inflation.

Venezuela's economic collapse ranks as one of the worst in modern history, with hyperinflation likely to see prices soaring 13,000 percent this year, the International Monetary Fund said last week.

The wage increase -- the third this year -- brings minimum monthly income to 2.55 million bolivars, or $3.20 on the widely used black market, when a food voucher is included.

The president also said that from Tuesday, when Venezuela celebrates Workers' Day, public service employees will receive an additional increase of around $2.

Maduro is controversially seeking another six-year term in May 20 elections that regional powers have criticized as lacking democratic standards, amid a boycott by the main opposition coalition.

Even with the increases, the minimum wage will buy little more than two kilograms (4.4 pounds) of chicken.

Despite sitting on the world's largest oil reserves, Venezuelans are grappling with severe shortages of food and medicines, largely due to a drastic cut in imports caused by falling oil prices.

"In a time of revolution, like never before in history, the policy that Commander Hugo Chavez always promoted and that I have perfected, is to take care of the working class," Maduro said, citing his popular socialist predecessor.

Venezuelan economists have attacked Maduro's constant adjustments, saying they succeed only in driving up the cost of living and are not accompanied by a plan to cut inflation or impose fiscal or monetary discipline.

About 13 million Venezuelan workers earn the minimum wage, according to the government.