“Canasta Básica” Unaffordable for Most Hondurans*
By Honduras Weekly
‘You can’t have a world where 50 percent of the people are dieting and 50 percent of the people are starving if you want stability.’
-John Shelby Spong
More than seven of every ten Hondurans cannot afford the commodities and services needed to live a physically and emotionally healthy life — an index known as the canasta básica (basic basket). Of Honduras’ population of 7.87 million people, an estimated 4.5 million have serious nutritional problems, and an additional 1.5 million can pay for enough to eat but cannot afford basic healthcare, education, or housing. These figures, documented in a study funded recently by the European Union (EU), were announced to the public in September by Vice President María Guillén de Bográn. Note: The Honduran National Business Council (Cohep) defines the canasta básica as 30 food products, including fruits, meats, cereals, milk, and soft drinks for a family of six individuals. Unlike labor organizations in Honduras, Cohep does not take into account the cost of public services.
The peaceful demonstration march in San Pedro Sula yesterday by thousands of people was organized by the National Confederation of Federations and Councils of Honduras (Conafeph), the Municipal Syndicate, and other labor groups was meant to express opposition to the relative high cost of the canasta básica, increases in the cost of electricity by the National Electrical Energy Company (ENEE), and the Lobo administration’s raising of the minimum wage by only 3 and 7 percent, versus the 15 percent proposed by labor representatives. Ana María Ríos, who is the president of the Municipal Syndicate, stressed that the cost of the canasta básica, estimated by labor at Lps 15,000 (US$789) per month, is too high. “The poor cannot afford to buy it.”
Cohep’s index for the canasta básica is valued at Lps 4,440 (US$234) per month. The wide divergence in the definition of the canasta básica between labor and business is one of the primary sources of contention in wage increase negotiations between the two sectors.