Double Christmas Bonus in Bolivia: A very regressive Santa Claus

Double Christmas Bonus in Bolivia: A very regressive Santa Claus

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And yes , the words “Santa Claus” are not in the Spanish dictionary… maybe because “they say” that the concept was introduced by Coca Cola , which dubious origins, “que aquí, que allá” (as my mom says)… I may or may not agree, but what almost everybody knows is what the old man does. For that reason I allow me this literary license… you know, I have to compete with pages whose visits count increases at a rate of 1 million per week.

Having said that, here we go… what seems to be a curious practice with our Government (Bolivia) days before or after Christmas they reserv for us a “surprise”, in 2010 was a “gasolinazo” (increase of the gasoline price more than 70%… for only 5 days)  which left us with big open eyes; now the order by Supreme Decree, is that all employees in the public and private sector (yes, private) will receive a “Double Christmas Bonus” (DCB). Years ago, before this DCB, if you were employee in the public or private sector, each December you received an additional salary “Aguinaldo” in Spanish and I use in this text “Christmas Bonus”, in this way, you had a Christmas and New Year away from worldly problems associated with “dirty money”. In November of 2013 the Bolivian Government decreed that this benefit should be double what is now known as the “Doble Aguinaldo” or “Double Christmas Bonus”.

Curious about this news t I started to play with numbers published by the Bolivian National Statistics Institute through the Household Survey. This survey is a great effort , I must admit , that the NSI do since 1999… with this instrument  Bolivians know our habits , income, expenditure level, educational status, health, etc. It’s a pretty extensive survey. Unfortunately this instrument is published with some lag (imagine the tabular data effort) for it, this time I will work with the survey for 2011 . Sure many people reading these lines will already be frowning about this instrument, but let me tell you dear friends that is the only official source, which by the way, is the best we have in Bolivia.

Almost three hours of work took me to build the table attached, in that one you will find the number of people (their wages and personal income) according to the type of worker. What? Let me do an example, in 2011 approximately 1.3 million people declared themselves to be “employees” with an average monthly net wage of Bs 1,949 (US$ 280 aprox.) and Bs 2,674 (US$ 530 aprox.) of personal income. With these figures then we can have an idea of ​​whom may receive this “Double Christmas Bonus”; according to the order in the table you will see that the first 4 categories (Patron, employee, worker and housekeeper) could be the subject of this benefit.

For people tired of Tables also did the following graph where I present the information in a simpler way. In green you will find that the people who could receive the “Double Christmas Bonus” have an average monthly income of Bs 2,500 (US$ 360) and are 1.99 million; on the other hand, people who may not receive this benefit have an income of approximately Bs 1,500 (US$ 210) and there are a little more than 3 million. In short, this benefit could benefit high income… as I said in the title, Santa Claus gives gifts to high income people. Papa Noel is also a selective one, it gives this gift to nearly 2 million and leaves out 3 million.

One objection that could have the previous analysis is as follows: “the 3 million people who do not receive the ‘Double Christmas Bonus’ will earn more (than the current income) because they will sell their products to the people who gets the gift. Ok, I didn’t estimate that, maybe the people who receive the “Double Christmas Bonus” will spend more on health, perhaps buying more toys, perhaps saving … or maybe buy more potatoes on the market , if they do the last one maybe the poor people will get some drops from this Christmas gift.

It has been a tough week for me (and not because I will not receive the “Double Christmas Bonus”… I’m an evil consultant person); like Anakin the dark side again touch my life, thanks God for the people whom love me and comforts me… and, as usual, thanks to Santi (my 5 years old son) with his daily lessons I’m becoming a better person.

Mauricio Medinaceli Monrroy

La Paz, November 21, 2013 .