HAVANA _ Feeling pain at the gas pump? Be thankful you don't live in Cuba, where the typical worker must labor for an entire week just to earn enough for a gallon of the precious stuff.
The average Cuban makes $12 a month, and the top grade of gas costs $3.41 a gallon.
"Not everyone can afford it," said Ailet Pelaez, 20, a cashier in Havana. "I save money so I can buy gas. And I use my car only when necessary. Cars here are luxuries."
In the United States, gas prices are nearing records as crude prices hover around $55 a barrel, AAA, formerly known as the American Automobile Association, reported Friday.
As high as gas prices are, most Americans can afford it. They have a per capita income of $35,400, the world's third highest.
Cubans earn just $144 a year on average, although that number is deceptive. Taking into account government subsidies of food, housing, utilities, health and education, their actual income is estimated to be higher, from $736 to $2,935.
But ordinary people have a tough time buying gas.
Leaded gas goes for $2.84 to $3.41 per gallon, although some government workers are eligible for a subsidized price of $2.46. Unleaded isn't available.
Carlos Enrique Kim, 34, a cook, said he has trouble buying more than 4 gallons at a time. Still, he considers himself lucky.
"I live just seven blocks from work," he said.
Lorenzo Tamayo, 36, a Havana musician, sometimes buys black-market gas to save money, but the contraband fuel is often dirty and fouls car engines.
"You have to be careful because sometimes the gas is diluted," he said. "That brings on complications and other costs that wipe out whatever money I saved."
Teeside, England _ $5.64
Hong Kong _ $5.62
Frankfurt, Germany _ $5.29
Copenhagen, Denmark _ $5.08
Istanbul, Turkey _ $4.85
Seoul, Korea _ $4.71
Tokyo _ $3.84
Bangkok, Thailand _ $1.60
Shanghai, China _ $1.48
Moscow _ $1.45
Baku, Azerbaijan _ $1.15
Caracas, Venezuela _ 14 cents
Source: Associates for International Research Inc.
(c) 2004, The Dallas Morning News.