The economy is probably the main concern for people in highland communities: the lack of jobs, lack of any real economic development opportunities, and the gross inequalities that exist. What's interesting in the community consultation process about mining and also the debates about hydroelectric plants (another big-ticket development item promoted by the government) is that people in the extremely poor areas where these projects are being proposed see through the short-term economic argument -- that is, that mining or a hydroelectric plant will bring jobs.
I have not done a profound economic study, household by household, but it strikes me as nothing short of miraculous that people here can get by one day to the next on their salaries and given the rising costs. A breakfast at a regular comedor, nothing fancy, costs Q15 (just under $2). This would be eggs, fried plantains, beans, tortillas, and coffee or tea. Lunch in a marketplace comedor costs anywhere between Q15 and Q25 (depending upon the city and some other factors). So if you are making Q50 a day, that doesn't allow you to eat out much.
An anonymous source (this makes me feel like a real journalist, to have anonymous sources) read my blog this morning and told me that a barrel of gasoline costs Q1400 and by retailing it, a vendor can take in Q1500, so on a good day a vendor could make Q100. Not the lap of luxury but enough to maybe buy some bottled water (Q2 to Q4 for a 625-800 ml. bottle), an occasional beer (someone will have to give me the price on that) or eat at a markeplace stall occasionally.