Withholdings of 70 Percent or More of the Salaries of Cuban Doctors Are Taxes, Says the Cuban Government

Qatar is among the nations that pay well for Cuban medical cooperation. (Cubadebate)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, 13 February 2024 — That the Cuban Government keeps between 70% and 95% of what a foreign country pays for each health worker is not new, nor is it new that the regime alleges that part goes to cover the expenses of, among other things, Public Health. The novelty is in comparing it with the taxes that are paid in many European countries through a simplification that could be described as ignorance, if it were not for the fact that it is published by a media that knows what it is talking about.

The international pro-Castro channel Cubainformación, located in Spain, has released a video on Tuesday to talk about the “war against Cuban medical cooperation,” whose epicenter, it says, is in Mexico. The report explains that Cuban international missions are divided into several types: those that are entirely covered by Cuba, in the poorest countries, those that have the contribution of the two parties and, finally, those that are sent to countries with more resources, for which the Island receives a payment.

This amount includes, details the report, stipends and allowances for cooperating personnel, expenses (flights, lodging and maintenance), salaries and, finally, an amount that goes to the Public Health System. Cubainformation tries to ridicule “the media and contracting organizations” whom it considers allies of the United States in its “war” by mocking the different percentages  that the Government retains. “The ’Cuban regime’ practices ’modern slavery’ or ’forced labor’ of its medical personnel because it ’retains’ more than 70% – or 75%, 80% or 95%, because there are different figures according to the imagination of the source – of the payment,” it jokes.

Even accepting the figure of 70%, discounting the expenses assumed by the Cuban State, we would not be at a tax pressure much higher than that of Belgium, for example”

Then, however, it recognizes that “the data is difficult to verify,” but admits that it may be the least amount withheld compared to other countries. “Even accepting the figure of 70%, discounting the expenses assumed by the Cuban State, we would not be at a tax pressure much higher than that of Belgium, for example,” it concludes.

The surprising analogy comes from the opening of the video, which states that “in a country like Belgium, of the gross salary of a worker, 53% is withheld by the State” as taxes to cover social security and the public budget, and it adds that calling this a “business” of the Belgian Government is a joke. The comparison would reveal an amazing ignorance if it were not for the fact that the author is from Spain, a country where the tax system works like the Belgian one.

The 53% mentioned comes from the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) classification, which placed Belgium as the country with the highest taxes of the 38 countries that compose it. That indicator includes not only what employees contribute in terms of taxes, but also what companies contribute for them. But in addition, what workers pay of their gross salary is basically made up of contributions to Social Security and Personal Income Tax (IRPF).

The latter is paid progressively, according to a system of brackets established by law. A percentage is applied to each segment that increases according to the amount contributed, so it is not applied to the total salary. In addition, the personal income tax takes into account the circumstances of the worker, particularly if he or she lives alone and/or has children.

The tax is paid progressively, according to a system of brackets established by law

 In summary, Cubainformation is comparing an average percentage – obviously there are Belgians paying more or less according to the personal case – which is the sum of the company and worker contributions in the country where the figure is the highest in the world, with the at least 70% applied to the total salary of any Cuban doctor abroad without distinction. In addition, it seems to the media that 70% “is not much higher” than 53%, despite being 23 points higher.

The highest tax bracket among the OECD countries is in Europe at 41.2%, while that of Chile is 13.5%. The highest in the United States is 37%; in return everyone enjoys an infinite number of public services ranging from health and education to garbage collection and transport. These services have such high overall quality that they are used by citizens regardless of their tax bracket. These countries, with the Nordics at the head, lead international rankings every year in terms of development index, well-being and minor inequalities, among others, despite the cyclical economic difficulties they can experience.

Aware of these aspects, with its headquarters in Spain (fifteenth highest tax bracket at 39.4%), Cubainformación compares them – simplifying – with what happens with the appropriation of the salaries of Cuban doctors abroad and forgets that, even accepting its version, the regime never details in a General State Budget (as these nations do) what it spends its income on.

The truth is, as the Government of Cuba itself reports, that more than 33% of the State budget goes to tourism investments

“Ending this income means preventing Cuba from buying or manufacturing medicines, repairing hospitals, importing medical technology or, simply, the economic improvement of cooperating personnel and their families,” continues the video.

The truth is, as the Government of Cuba itself reports, that more than 33% of the State budget goes to tourism investments. This is reflected in the public accounts of 2022, where it is seen that Health and Education together received a tenth of the investment dedicated to the construction of hotels and services linked to tourism. Specifically, in fact, only 2.1% was dedicated to Health and Public Assistance.

The video also addresses other issues, such as the vaccines sold to Mexico, which many of its citizens have openly rejected, the alleged lack of training of the health workers sent to other countries and the discomfort among the national professionals.

But the most disturbing thing is the rhetorical question that, curiously, it has answered minutes before. “How is it possible for a Government to be able to ’force’ 600,000 ’slaves’ to 165 countries, as Havana has achieved in these 60 years?” The author himself has already revealed the answer by talking about the payments made, as a stipend, by the governments that hire their services: “It means, de facto, multiplying their Cuban salary,” the one they receive when they are at home, which does not allow them to live with dignity.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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