Canasta Basica

With all the assorted what does it cost to live ... posts, let me point you to the official numbers. The Nicaraguan government, through the Ministerio de Trabajo, offers what is called the Canasta Basica. It is a list of current costs for what MITRAB considers necessities. It is used to help set wage minimums but it is a good source of the typical costs of items from eggs to detergent.

This link is the latest as of this post but look around the site as it is updated monthly. I believe the totals are for a family of four but the chart includes quantities and price per unit (a pound of beef, a roll of toilet paper, a KWh of electricity and so on.

In looking at it, I noticed that it even includes rent at C$900/month. That works out to about $40. (You can currently use C$23 to US$1 for the conversion.) Clearly, some people will spend more on certain items (or add things such as an Internet connection) but it is a reasonable place to start. What is certainly supports is the fact that you can get by here on much less than most places in the world, particularly those that have Winters.

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On Canal 15

some Sandanistas were joking that the Canasta Basics only left out Cell phones. There need to be a serious review of what it actually contains and some way to Normalize it across countries of the region so that comparisons can be made.

Cost of LIving in Venezuela.

This post impelled me to calculate my living costs here in Venezuela. It appears that I am living for approximately $350 to $450 a month. As I own a one-third share in this three bedroom, one bath condominium apartment in the mountain city of Mérida, it is hard to calculate rent, and converting Bolivars Fuerte, the national currency, into dollars is complicated by the large difference between the government rate of 4.3 Bs.F to one U.S. dollar versus the unofficial rate of 8.7 Bs.F to $1.00 U.S.

Housing and the cost of living is more expensive in Caracas, but the jobs pay higher salaries there. The official minimum wage is now 8 Bs.F, the highest in South America. The prices for basic foodstuffs (milk, bread, rice, sugar, coffee, and the like) are strictly regulated, as are basic drugs.

A room like mine in Mérida goes for 900 Bs.F. to 1200 Bs.F, which would be from $209 U.S. to $103.44 or $279.00 U.S. to $137.00 U.S. depending on official or unofficial exchange rates.

Utilities are all very cheap. We pay 212 BsF for gas, water, electric, condominium fees and internet a month (either $49.30 or $ $24.00 U.S., again depending on exchange rate. Internet alone(140 Bs.F is $32.55 or $16.00 a month.

And, for basic food and necessities, if you buy at the government subsidized Mercals, the cost is usually 50% less than the same goods in the regular markets. The local open air market has fruits and vegetables at low prices as well. I don't drink or smoke, so I have no idea what that costs. I eat local food. National dishes in the local shops are very inexpensive, which I take home to eat, but the McDonald's, of which there are three, are exorbitant. I prefer eating local, much healthier. All the food shops have a variety of freshly squeezed fruit juices available too. (I hate the noise of a liquadora /blender, so I let them do it!)

Is there guanabana (soursop) in Nicaragua? Makes great juice!

Then, medical, dental and eye care is free to all here, with free clinics in every neighborhood. Specialists at the hospitals have provided me with excellent care.

Bus transport is very cheap at 2 Bs.F to go anywhere in the city and for those over 65 years, the bus is free with an "exoneration" card from the Alcaldia (Mayor's Office). All long distances buses are half price to seniors, as are national and international airfares.

Imported medications and electronic gear are expensive, local generic medicines are cheap, but don't always cover the needed range of drugs.

My cell phone runs about 15 Bs.F a month, but I don't pay for internet service on it, which would run about 80 Bs.F a month extra.

Many cultural events are free, such as concerts by the national youth orchestra system. Just went to one of Mérida's youth orchestra concerts last night. It was superb. The kids get all lessons and use of instruments free, as well as stipends for their participation. The kids really work for these benefits though, practicing for 5 to 7 hours a day. Their teachers are very demanding and their high standards really shows. They are better than most professional orchestras I have heard. This program is fantastic!

Based on the budgets suggested in various posts here, Nicaragua sounds like it would be more expensive than Venezuela, especially for electricity, internet and gas. Gas for cars is something like $.14 cents a liter, cheaper than many bottled waters. I don't have a car here, so don't benefit from the cheap gas, but I don't have to sit wasting gas in traffic jams either, I let the bus drivers do that and read a newspaper instead. Other than too much traffic and too much noisy car horns and fire works, Mérida is a great place to live with a very temperate climate. (So no heating/cooling costs to pay.)

using the

Unofficial exchange rate, and given the number you mention, cost of living seems cheaper in Venezuela than it is in Nicaragua!

Sounds like my trips to the old East Germany


East Germany Not In "Happiness Index"

The New Economics Foundation only started compiling a "Happiness Index" in 2006, when East Germany no longer existed, so don't know how its citizens would have rated it for "life satisfaction". The "Happiness Index measures the well-being of a country via measures of self-expressed citizen satisfaction with their lives, life expectancy and the ecological impact of a given country. It was meant to supplement comparisons between countries based only on Gross Domestic Product.

You may already know that Nica citizens expressed a high degree of satisfaction with their lives. They rank 11th in the world on the Happiness Index. Venezuela comes in at 36th, the United Kingdom is 74th and the U.S. is a pretty miserable 114th. (

Venezuela's GINI index figure (lower is better), which measures equality/inequality in distribution of national wealth and income dropped almost 9 points between 1998 (49.5) to 2009 (40.1). President Chavez was first elected in 1998, took office in 1999.

In the U.S. during that same time period, Inequality of wealth and income increased, going from 40.1 in 1997 to 45 in 2007. By comparison, Iceland is now at 28 and Sweden is at 23.

Nicaragua stands out again as making exemplary progress. It went from a GINÏ score of of 60.3 in 1998 to 43.1 in 2001, according to CIA figures:


"Nicaragua stands out again as making exemplary progress. It went from a GINÏ score of of 60.3 in 1998 to 43.1 in 2001 ..."

During the regime of Arnoldo Alemán.

"You may already know that Nica citizens expressed a high degree of satisfaction with their lives."

No, actually I don't know that (but then I actually live here) and this is not what survey claims ....

"Much criticism of the index has been due to commentators falsely understanding it to be a measure of happiness, when it is in fact a measure of the ecological efficiency of supporting well-being."

What is ecological efficiency?

"Ecological efficiency describes the efficiency with which energy is transferred from one trophic level to the next (... ) the trophic level of an organism is the position it occupies in a food chain."

Which means ... ?

So, do Nicaraguans actually express a high degree of satisfaction with their lives?

The floor is open for debate.

No more GINI

Family of 5 fyl

Mom, Dad & three kids.