Viewing cable 08CONAKRY2
Title: LIVING ON LESS THAN $1 PER DAY - WHY ENDS DON'T MEET

IdentifierCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
08CONAKRY22008-01-02 09:02:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Conakry
VZCZCXRO3070
RR RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHRY #0002/01 0020902
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 020902Z JAN 08
FM AMEMBASSY CONAKRY
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2000
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 CONAKRY 000002 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12598:  N/A 
TAGS: ECIN EFIN ECON EMIN GV
SUBJECT: LIVING ON LESS THAN $1 PER DAY - WHY ENDS DON'T MEET 
 
 
¶1.  (SBU) SUMMARY. From shoe shiners to accountants, an informal 
Embassy survey demonstrates just why Guinea is considered one of the 
poorest countries in the world.  This snapshot of average salaries 
in both the private and public sectors illustrates all too clearly 
the substantial economic hardship Guineans face on a daily basis - 
hardship that feeds underlying political tensions.  In addition, 
many Guineans simply do not make a livable wage, demonstrating one 
of the key reasons endemic corruption continues to undermine the 
country's political and economic progress.  END SUMMARY. 
 
¶2.  (SBU) Embassy staff conducted an informal survey of average 
salaries in the urban capital area in November and December 2007, 
which included both private enterprises and public officials.  Given 
popular demands for lower prices and continued complaints about the 
overall quality of life for the average Guinean, Embassy wanted to 
establish baseline salary data in order to better understand basic 
economic conditions as an underlying political pressure.  The survey 
involves only the reported monthly salary and does not include 
additional allowances such as for housing or transportation, which 
some employers provide. 
 
--------------------- 
MAKING A DOLLAR A DAY 
--------------------- 
 
¶3.  (SBU)  Overall, salaries ranged from $29 to $520 per month (at 
current exchange rates) or roughly 96 cents per day to $17 per day. 
Some of the highest paid workers include accountants, managers and 
other skilled professions while the lower paid workers were 
dominated by government officials and unskilled labor including taxi 
drivers and hotel and restaurant employees.  The World Bank 
estimates that Guinea's per capita annual income is $410 for 2006, 
or about $1.12 per day.  Considering the relatively low number of 
skilled professionals versus unskilled laborers, it is likely that 
the income distribution is skewed towards a disproportionate number 
of very poor people earning less than the $1.12/day World Bank 
estimate. 
 
---------------- 
MAKING ENDS MEET 
---------------- 
 
¶4.  (SBU) Given current commodity costs and average living expenses, 
Embassy estimates that an urban, middle-class family of four spends 
a minimum of $400 per month on basic living expenses, 75% of which 
is spent on food.  Poorer families spend at least $100 a month on 
food and lodging alone.  A 50 kilo bag of rice, which would feed a 
family of four for about two weeks, costs $30.  These estimates 
consider only lodging, food, transportation and other essentials. 
Things like medical care, school uniforms and supplies, and clothing 
are not included.  When the estimated cost of living is compared 
with average salaries, it is clear that simply making ends meet 
poses a significant challenge.  Many families cannot get by without 
multiple family members working and maximizing shared expenses. 
 
¶5.  (SBU) It is also important to consider Guinea's significant 
unemployment.  Official government figures report that unemployment 
is only 3%, but private and NGO estimates range from 18% to 50%. 
What we do know is that many young people, even those with college 
educations, do not have gainful employment.  It is also clear that 
an overabundance of ready labor, both skilled and unskilled, helps 
keep salaries low.  Significant unemployment coupled with basic 
economic hardship means that many wage earners are supporting large 
extended families, which is exacerbated by the traditional practice 
of having multiple wives.  It is common to see families of ten or 
more individuals living on the same family compound. 
 
----------------------------- 
AN ENVIRONMENT FOR CORRUPTION 
----------------------------- 
 
¶6.  (SBU) One of the most striking aspects of the survey is the 
significantly low level of pay for government workers relative to 
the private sector.  Government wages range from $42 to $78 per 
month.  A low level government worker makes about the same as a gas 
station attendant while the highest level government worker makes 
about the same as a restaurant cook.  A senior civil servant makes 
about $2.50 per day.  Despite these low wages, the government 
attracts significant numbers of college-educated employees and is 
generally considered to be a desirable employer.  Since it would be 
nearly impossible for most families to subsist on these wages, it is 
likely that many government employees are supplementing their 
incomes through non-official means, i.e. corruption; rent-seeking. 
 
 
------- 
COMMENT 
------- 
 
¶7.  (SBU) While we have known that the average Guinean faces 
substantial economic hardship on a daily basis, the salary figures 
coupled with our understanding of basic living expenses provide a 
 
CONAKRY 00000002  002 OF 002 
 
 
much clearer picture of the country's economic reality.  Low wages 
and the high cost of living contribute to the overall environment of 
corruption and pose significant challenges to advancing much needed 
reforms.  In addition, the population's frustration over quality of 
life issues, which are directly related to the economic conditions, 
is a major political pressure.  At the same time, significant 
numbers of neighboring Liberians and Sierra Leonians are living in 
Conakry reportedly because economic opportunities are better here 
than in their home countries.  In the context of political and 
economic stability in the Mano River Region, this fact is 
particularly interesting - despite Guinea's extreme poverty, its 
neighbors still see it as a land of better opportunity even several 
years after their own wars and prolonged political instability. 
 
¶8.  (SBU) It should be noted that this analysis is limited to the 
urban capital area.  It does not reflect economic conditions in the 
interior of the country and is not exhaustive in its coverage of 
labor in Conakry.  END COMMENT. 
 
----------------- 
TABLE OF SALARIES 
----------------- 
 
¶9.  TABLE OF AVERAGE SALARIES 
 
Category       Profession  Salary USD(Gnf)/month 
 
Construction 
      Unskilled worker $105 (431,103 Gnf) 
   Laborer   $118 (485,047 Gnf) 
   Exp. laborer  $126 (518,365 Gnf) 
   Qualified worker $183 (752,954 Gnf) 
   Manager   $333 (1,367,834 Gnf) 
 
Hotel Industry 
   Room attendant  $36 (150,000 Gnf) 
   Waiter   $48 (200,000 Gnf) 
   Cook    $73 (300,000 Gnf) 
   Dishwasher  $34 (140,000 Gnf) 
 
Petroleum 
   Pump attendant  $39 (160,000 Gnf) 
   Station Manager $85 (350,000 Gnf) 
   Tank Driver  $97 (400,000 Gnf) 
   Shopkeeper  $36 (150,000 Gnf) 
 
 
Miscellaneous 
   Maintenance Agent $251 (951,569 Gnf) 
   Watchman   $183 (753,000 Gnf) 
   Driver   $243 (998,446 Gnf) 
   Accountant  $423 (1,735,569 Gnf) 
   Admin Assist.  $520 (2,134,000 Gnf) 
   Secretary   $389 (1,597,907 Gnf) 
   Taxi driver  $29  (120,000 Gnf) 
   Bus driver   $48  (200,000 Gnf) 
   Lorry driver  $97  (400,000 Gnf) 
   Shoe shiner  $21  (90,000 Gnf) 
   Tailor   $146 (600,000 Gnf) 
   Telecenter operator $29  (120,000 Gnf) 
 
Government 
   Hierarchy A  $78  (323,400 Gnf) 
   Hierarchy B  $53 (220,780 Gnf) 
   Hierarchy C  $42  (175,700 Gnf) 
 
¶10.  NOTE.  Hierarchy A is the highest level of the Guinean 
administration employees and encompasses college graduates and those 
with post-graduate degrees.  Hierarchy B is the middle level 
employees.  Hierarchy C represents the lowest ranks of civilian 
government employees. 
 
CARTER