Cuba took the first step on Tuesday towards eliminating its two-tier currency system, in a move that observers see as ending a system that curbs trade and creates two levels of wage earners. The Communist island nation has been slowly attempting to come out from the cold of years of economic isolation.
According to Cuban state media, the government plans to gradually eliminate the dual monetary system in favor of a single Cuban peso. The system had been in place for the last two decades, part of reforms aimed at improving the country’s economic performance after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The reasoning behind the two different currencies was to protect the country’s fragile, Soviet-style economy from the fluctuations of global markets.
Presently, most Cubans receive their salaries in the Cuban peso, or CUP, which is used in the local economy. But the vast majority of imported goods on the island are available only with the hard currency convertible peso, or CUC, pegged to the U.S. dollar and used in the tourism industry and for foreign trade. This makes the dual-currency system unpopular with many Cubans, as they can’t purchase with Cuban pesos sought-after imported goods sold in convertible peso.
According to government statistics, most Cubans earn about $20 a month from their salaries. Neither peso is accepted as currency outside of Cuba.
Reuters reports that the unification of the two currencies is expected to be a gradual process that could take up to 18 months.