El Salvador’s challenges and concerns. What challenges Salvadorans in 2023?

By Eddie Galdamez  |  Mar 6th, 2023
El Salvador’s challenges and concerns
El Salvador National Palace. Image by @alcaldia_ss

It is March 2023, and with public elections less than a year away, El Salvador’s politics and politicians are about to take center stage extensively. The spotlight will be on President Bukele’s possible re-election and the democratic direction of the country; however, this political landscape is not a concern for most Salvadorans.

Most of El Salvador’s challenges and concerns in 2023 are associated with economic matters, such as the high cost of living, unemployment, lack of opportunities, and poverty. Security is also a concern, but it ranks lower.

Before 2020, security was the principal concern for Salvadorans, and the economy was always second; however, in 2023, things changed. According to a January 2023 survey by the IUDOP, 63.4% of Salvadorans think the economy is the main problem facing El Salvador; only 19.6% answered that it was delinquency or security.

The IUDOP survey asked a question that puts Salvadoran’s 2023’s challenges and concerns into perspective. They asked, At the end of 2022, is our country better, the same, or worse compared to last year? 79.8% said better, 11.4% answered the same, and 8.8% said the nation was worse.

The ones that answered that the situation in the country is better listed improved security, delinquency reduction, the state of exception, and the satisfactory job of the Bukele administration as the principal reasons the country is better. Most of them have to do with improved security.

On the other hand, those that responded that the situation in the country was worse listed the increase in the cost of essential food items, the high price of basic services, unemployment, few job opportunities, the poor job of the Bukele administration, and the state of exception as the principal reasons the country is worse. Most of them have to do with the country’s economy.

El Salvador’s 2023 economic challenges and concerns

What challenges or concerns Salvadorans the most in 2023 is the economy. An excellent indicator of how a country’s economy is doing is the inflation rate, which in El Salvador is the highest we have seen in a long time (2022 ended at 7.32). This high inflation is affecting most Salvadoran families’ economic situation.

Due to inflation, everything is more expensive in El Salvador! And in a country where the highest minimum wage is $365.00, this cost increase is a massive economic burden for many families. It is worse for those who work informally or live in rural areas, as salaries tend to be lower.

An example of high inflation affecting families’ economies is the cost of the essential food basket per family, which in urban areas reached $245.02 in January 2023, an increment of 22.27% from January 2020.

But the 2023 economic challenges Salvadorans face are nothing new; they have been around for years. However, they are more in the spotlight now due to the country’s improved security and the high inflation.

It is evident that the increase in the cost of living is already hitting the Salvadoran population hard; families have already stopped buying certain foods because of the high prices, and some have obtained new debts to survive. Furthermore, many people have left the country looking for better financial opportunities.

Unless the Bukele administration does something to alleviate the problem, it will continue to be the primary concern and the most challenging issue Salvadorans will have to deal with this year.

El Salvador’s improved security

Before 2020, security was the primary concern for most Salvadorans; for years, El Salvador was listed as one of the most violent countries in the world, and for good reasons. The rate of homicides per 100,000 inhabitants was consistently over 20. However, that rate has declined drastically since 2020, and now security is a secondary concern for Salvadorans.

Security is still a concern, but not as much as before; this issue, which cost the lives of over 100,000 people since 1992, is not easy to ignore. However, in 2023 the country’s delinquency is down, and the criminal gangs that used to terrorize communities for years are not visible anymore.

How the country has achieved this level of security is up for debate. Some argue that it is because of the Bukele security measures and the controversial state of exception, yet, others articulate that it is because of a secret pact between the Government and criminal groups.

Both arguments have solid points, but no one can deny that El Salvador’s security has improved since Bukele became president; the homicide rate is down, and the country has experienced over 300 days with zero homicides. These stats are incredible!

El Salvador’s 2023 challenges and concerns.

Dating back to 1994, El Salvador has always had security and economic challenges. The good news for Salvadorans in 2023 is that the security issue is being resolved; however, the economic challenges in the country have worsened.

In 2023, as in previous years, Salvadorans are concerned and want to improve economically. They want to improve their business or open a new business; also, they want to find work or obtain better employment. Ultimately, Salvadoran want to provide a better life for themselves and their family, pay off debts, and get out of poverty or at least struggle less financially.

Overcoming the Challenges Salvadorans have in 2023 will not be easy; as a matter of fact, they might get worse. The world’s economic problems and the Russia/Ukraine conflict will continue to affect El Salvador’s economy this year.