Venezuela’s embattled government hikes minimum wage by 50% - the fifth increase in a year

Venezuela's socialist President Nicolas Maduro announced on Sunday a 50% hike in the minimum wage and pensions, the fifth increase over the last year, to help shield workers from the world's highest inflation rate.

The measure puts the minimum monthly salary at 40,683 bolivars — about $60 at the weakest exchange level under the state's currency controls, or $12 at the black-market rate.

"In times of economic war and mafia attacks, we must protect employment and workers' income," said Maduro, who has now increased the minimum wage by a cumulative 322 percent since February 2016.

 Maduro attributes Venezuela's three-year recession, soaring prices, and product shortages to a plunge in global oil prices since mid-2014 and an "economic war" by political foes and hostile businessmen.

But critics say his incompetence, and 17 years of failed socialist policies, are behind Venezuela's economic mess, adding that the constant minimum wage hikes symbolize Maduro's policy failures and fail to keep pace with real on-the-street price rises.