Wednesday, March 18, 2009

State of the Economy in Honduras

I know that right now, on most everyone's mind is the state of the economy in the U.S. However, what is hard for folks in the U.S. to see is how the downturn of the economy effects the rest of the world.

In January Honduran President Manuel Zelaya raised the minimum wage in one big jump from $157 to $289 per month. That's an increase of nearly 60%. If you're earning the minimum wage in Honduras, it's good news for you unless, of course, you get laid off because your employer can no longer afford to pay you!! And that is exactly what has happened. 15,000 Hondurans (out of only 7,000,000) got laid of the first month this proposal took effect. The unemployment rate is now almost 30%. The average Honduran makes only $3,000 a year.

As an example of how this is effecting Honduras, a friend of ours discussed the state of the Honduras economy with his favorite Honduran taxi driver / electrician, Sergio. He has had it rough in the last few months. Since more and more people are loosing their jobs, fewer people are taking the taxis to get around. So there is a taxi glut. Which is amazing because taking a taxi only costs $1. The city has stopped issuing new taxi permits. Surg's revenues dropped in half from December to January. Drivers are competing for fares and driving longer hours and more dangerous routes to make ends meet.

Unfortunately, Surg has been robbed by gang members in his taxi three times since Christmas. Two times were at gun point. They took his cash and cell phone. Because of this he no longer drives after 7:00 PM.

It's hard, for us in the U.S. to even contemplate what the economy in a third-world country is like. Yes, people worry about losing their house at times, figuring out how to pay bills, but I would venture to say that none of us have EVER known what it was like to go a week without anything other than rice on our plates because that's all that a family can afford. None of us have probably ever had to consider that they have to move to the dump to live because the small rent that they have to pay is even beyond their budget. That people are deathly ill, but can't even afford the 35 cent bus trip and all day expenses to get to the local hospital an hour away, wait all day, and may not even be seen, or be able to pay for the doctor, or much less the cost of medications. We worry about us having to pull our kids out of private school because we can no longer afford it - how about not even being able to send your kid to 7th grade because the $5.00 a month fee is way outside of their family budget, so their kids continue living in squalor because they aren't educated. As North American's, we can't even wrap our brains around this, but this is something that is a daily occurrence to the people we minister to. As you are praying for the economy in the U.S. PLEASE keep Honduras, and other third-world countries who are being hit even harder than you can imagine!

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