• This Blog on The Cuban Economy is dedicated to Cuba's Generation "A". Although inspired by Yoani Sánchez' blog "Generation Y" this is not dedicated to those with names starting with the letter "A". Instead, it draws from Douglas Coupland's novel Generation A which begins with a quotation from Kurt Vonnegut at a University Commencement that was brought to my attention by Andrew Johnston of Ottawa: ".. ... I hereby declare you Generation A, as much as the beginning of a series of astounding triumphs and failures as Adam and Eve were so long ago."

    The objective of this Blog is to facilitate access to research resources and analyses from all relevant and useful sources, mainly on the economy of Cuba.

CUBA’S NEW PRIVATE SECTOR EMPLOYEES REVEAL WHERE THE REFORM PROCESS IS HEADING

22 September 2014 – Havana Times

Rogelio Manuel Diaz Moreno

 http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=106289

The Cuban government’s reforms continue to make slow, somewhat erratic progress and to evince a series of unique characteristics and tendencies that are food for thought.

Let us recall, first, that Cuban politicians like to refer to this process as the “updating of Cuba’s economic system.” This past Friday, Cuba’s official newspaper, Granma, proudly informed readers about one of the sectors now at the forefront of the process, the food industry. Reading the article, one immediately senses that its author, journalist Lorena Sanchez, suffers from the deeply-rooted shyness that characterizes government propagandists, those who refuse to call the private sector by its name and use the euphemism “non-State” in its place. Perhaps she merely transcribed the message from the Vice-Minister for Domestic Trade Ada Chavez Oviedo: in short, that private or “non-State” forms of ownership will prevail in the sector once it has been fully “modernized.”

In her report, we find out that 68 % of the country’s better known food establishments are still under State management. Over a thousand have been passed on to the self-employed and cooperatives (mostly the former). Here, we run into a fact that is alarming for left-wing forces. If the process of de-nationalization was planned by an allegedly socialist government, why weren’t cooperatives prioritized? Will the same tendency characterize the de-nationalization of the establishments that have yet to be “updated”?

Agriculture and the food industry have experienced the most visible changes, perhaps because they were facing the most severe crises. Farms, cafes and restaurants have been the paradigms of bad and inefficient State management. In both cases, the main solution has been to place the means of production in private hands.   In effect, we are now witnessing substantial changes in the activities conducted in these sectors, prosperous fields and quality services where before there was nothing but marabou brush and flies. One cannot help but wonder, however, about the actual potential of these reforms, which are more liberal than anything else, and about who is reaping the actual profits of this.

Another article published by Granma a few days before reported that the largest number of self-employed workers aren’t exactly “self-employed”, but rather the employees of someone else – small or mid-scale private entrepreneurs. In fact, the number of such employees in the country isn’t larger because of how small most businesses are. This data can prove useful for a study of the changes our society is experiencing.

Champions of capitalism say that the market economy and privatizations are good because they increase the number of property owners, of prosperous individuals. Our government’s spokespeople praise the “updating” process, based on liberal and market reforms, because it will lead to prosperity, or so they claim.

I invite readers to go out for a stroll around Cuba’s cities and talk with the people who stand behind the counters of private restaurants and food stands owned by others, to ask these employees whether their working hours abide by the limits established in the recently-approved Labor Code, how many vacation days the owners grant them, and, if they are women of reproductive age, whether they believe that they can have a child and keep their jobs. If you do, don’t ask them whether they can ask for a raise – you wouldn’t want to get them fired on the spot. The owner, see, is sacrosanct, and Cuba’s blessed Labor Code gives them the authority to do just that. We are simply to accept that they’re being generous enough by paying more than the State. Afterwards, take a trip to the countryside and ask the farmhands employed on the ranches of the more fortunate farmers – those with both land and connections – the same questions.

The liberalization of the food industry and other sectors, given the “successes” the government boasts of, is probably representative of what is to come. Both the facts and history suggest that the Cuban State will continue to fail at most of its economic endeavors. Unable to solve these itself, it will have two alternatives: dismantle such production and service centers, or hand them over to the self-employed or cooperatives.

The more liberal option has been the most common implemented to date. With every step taken in this direction, with the expansion of the means of production involved, the exploitation of workers by private entrepreneurs, owners or managers of such means of production, will invariably increase. It is also true that, till now, State exploitation had been the norm.

Will we improve as a society following the privatizations that are presumably to come? It is not an easy question to answer, for we aren’t doing well at all right now. What’s certain is that the path ahead of us is a 180 degree turn from the road towards legitimate socialism, and that, in other parts of the world, this road has led to severe and irreparable damage to the so-called middle classes, to the concentration of property in a handful of individuals and to the extreme polarization of society between wealth and power and poverty and despair.

In short, the path traced by the “updating of Cuba’s economic model” is strewn with contradictions. One day, the authorities create more possibilities for private initiative. A short while later, they restrict these same spaces. They want for the private sector to absorb all who have been laid off or will be by the State sector, but they curtail the basic conditions needed for the development of the sector, such as the opening of wholesale markets and imports through different channels. They want to open the entire country to foreign investment, but they do not allow foreign investors to deal directly with the work force, setting up an onerous and profitable State mechanism that acts as intermediary.

The government also has its ways of dealing with the ideologically restless. One day, the papers expound on philosophical hesitations with pronouncements such as “no one knows for certain how socialism is built.” The next day, they reveal that the Council of Ministers has traced a development plan for the economy, society and politics for 2030 and beyond. The only problem is that they don’t tell you what those plans are. Some time later, they tell us they are going to save socialism through a battle in the field of ideas and culture, ignoring the vital space of society’s material reproduction.

What one discerns from below following a simple class-conscious analysis is a tendency towards the kind of capitalism that the opposition wants – but with the current governing class, the one that speaks of “updating socialism”, at the top, and without opposition. The government and opposition, thus, will continue to quarrel, and each will thwart the concrete progress of the reforms with the same objective that unites them and rifts them apart.

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CUBA TO PRIVATIZE 9,000 RESTAURANTS

19 September 2014 – AFP

http://www.rawstory.com/rs/author/agencefrance-presse/

The Cuban government announced plans Friday to sell nearly 9,000 state-owned restaurants to private operators, the latest step in the communist island’s economic reforms.

Cubans frequently complain about the country’s 8,984 state-owned restaurants, which are famous for poor quality, bad service and running out of food.

Deputy Trade Minister Aida Chavez said the state would sell them off in a gradual process starting in 2015.

“Cuba will substantially change the structure of its food services in the coming years, with the gradual and orderly transfer of the industry into the hands of the non-state sector,” she said, according to the state-run National Information Agency. Chavez said the government would rent the buildings where the restaurants are located to the new owners but sell off all other assets, from stoves to chairs to utensils.

“The decision… aims to modernize a sector that today demands services with the quality and security the Cuban people, and the tourists who visit us, deserve,” she said.

Cuba currently has 1,261 private restaurants that offer better-quality food and service at a higher price than state establishments. Known as “paladares,” they were first authorized by former president Fidel Castro in the 1990s.

Initially, Castro only allowed family-run restaurants with a maximum of 12 seats, but today they can seat up to 50 guests and hire staff.

That has been a key development for the country’s tourism industry, which draws nearly three million foreigners to the island each year.

Cuba has begun gradually opening its economy since Castro, the 88-year-old father of the island’s communist revolution, ceded power to his younger brother Raul in 2006. But the reforms have so far failed to deliver the hoped-for boost to economic growth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cuba Mar 2011 066 Paladar in the Barrio Chino, 2011, with a cultural exemption to the old 12w seat restriction.

Cuba Mar 2011 065Barrio Chino

Cuba Mar 2011 030In the State-sector Restaurant of the Hotel Inglatierra

PaladarOwners of the Paladar Dona Eutimia,

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CUBA’S EBOLA AID IS THE LATEST EXAMPLE OF ITS ‘MEDICAL DIPLOMACY’

 

14 September 2014

 Original here: http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/cuba/140914/cubas-ebola-aid-the-latest-example-its-medical-diplomacy

Cuba’s pledge to deploy a 165-strong army of doctors and nurses to help fight the Ebola outbreak is the latest example of the Communist country’s decades-old tradition of “medical diplomacy.”

Since 1960, when Cuba dispatched a team of doctors to help with the aftermath of an earthquake in Chile, the Caribbean island has sent more than 135,000 medical staff to all corners of the globe.

The latest batch being sent to help in west Africa’s Ebola crisis are part of a 50,000-strong foreign legion of Cuban doctors and healthcare workers spread across 66 countries in Latin America, Asia and Africa, according to Cuba’s Health Ministry. Cuban Health Minister Roberto Morales Ojeda told reporters in Geneva on Friday some 62 doctors and 103 nurses were being sent to Sierra Leone to tackle the outbreak. World Health Organization director general Margaret Chan welcomed the Cuban aid, the largest offer of a foreign medical team from a single country during the outbreak. “Money and materials are important, but those two things alone cannot stop Ebola virus transmission,” said Chan. “Human resources are clearly our most important need.” Morales said members of the team had “previously participated in post-catastrophe situations” and had all volunteered for the six-month mission, which begins in early October.

‘Foreign policy cornerstone’

“Medical diplomacy, the collaboration between countries to simultaneously produce health benefits and improve relations, has been a cornerstone of Cuban foreign policy since the outset of the revolution fifty years ago,” said US researcher Julie Feinsilver in a study for Georgetown University. “It has helped Cuba garner symbolic capital — goodwill, influence, and prestige —well beyond what would have been possible for a small, developing country, and it has contributed to making Cuba a player on the world stage,” Feinsilver wrote in her study “Fifty Years of Cuba’s Medical Diplomacy: From Idealism to Pragmatism.”  ”In recent years, medical diplomacy has been instrumental in providing considerable material capital — aid, credit, and trade — to keep the revolution afloat.”

Cuba’s medical diplomacy accelerated after the devastation wrought by Hurricanes George and Mitch across the Caribbean in 1998. In the aftermath of the disaster, Cuba sent some 25,000 doctors and health workers to 32 nations in the region. In 2004, former President Fidel Castro and late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez launched “Mission Miracle,” a program offering free eye surgery that has benefited some 2.8 million people across 35 countries, according to Cuban official sources.

Earthquake assistance

At the same time, Cuba’s “medical brigades” have helped victims from devastating earthquakes in numerous countries including Algeria, Mexico, Armenia and Pakistan. Cuba has also trained several thousand doctors and nurses from no fewer than 121 developing nations.

The biggest deployment has seen 30,000 Cuban health professionals sent to oil-rich Venezuela, a key regional ally. In Brazil, meanwhile, some 11,456 Cubans are working in hard-hit areas suffering from staffing shortages.

Together with educational and sporting services, the export of medical professionals is worth around $10 billion annually to Cuba, making it the most important source of income for the island, outstripping money earned from foreign remittances and exports of nickel.

Yet while the qualifications and dedication of Cuba’s foreign legion are regularly lauded by countries benefiting from their services and organizations such as the WHO, they are not always viewed so positively by local health workers. Trade unions and some politicians in Peru, Brazil, Ecuador, Bolivia, Uruguay and Honduras have criticized the “army in white coats” sent by Cuba.

At the same time, Havana has also been criticized for withholding too big a chunk of the salaries of workers employed overseas.

Despite the thousands of health workers abroad, Cuba’s domestic healthcare remains one of the best staffed networks in the world, with 82,065 doctors, one for every 137 people, according to the National Statistics Office.

imagesThe Ebola Pandemic, Monrovia

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WHAT SHOULD CANADA DO ABOUT CUBA’S PARTICIPATION IN THE AMERICAS SUMMIT?

CIPS-logo2By Stephen Baranyi, Professor, School of International Development and Global Studies, University of Ottawa, and Chair, Latin America and Caribbean Study Group of the Canadian International Council’s National Capital Branch.

See the original at: http://cips.uottawa.ca/what-should-canada-do-about-cubas-participation-in-the-americas-summit/#sthash.RUA0hXpt.dpuf This commentary reflects the public remarks and off-the-record

discussion with officials at the forum on Cuba, the 2015 Americas Summit, and Beyond: Obstacles and Opportunities, which was co-sponsored by CIPS on September 4, 2014.

Most Latin American and Caribbean states have indicated they will not attend the Americas Summit planned by Panama for April 2015 unless Cuba is invited. Canada and the United States have expressed reservations about Cuba’s participation on the grounds that it would gravely weaken the Inter-American Democratic Charter. Yet neither Ottawa nor Washington can afford to see the summit fail. In an age of emerging regional powers and increasing involvement by external heavyweights like China, North Americans are rightly concerned about being left on the margins of new hemispheric relationships.

From the moment it joined the OAS in 1989, Canada has made the protection and promotion of democracy a cornerstone of its hemispheric engagement. This commitment informed Canada’s hosting of the Americas Summit in Quebec and engagement in helping negotiate the Inter-American Democratic Charter, as well as the Harper government’s current Americas Strategy. Ottawa played a key role in drafting the Democracy Clause of the Quebec Declaration, which states that

 “any unconstitutional alteration or interruption of the democratic order in a state of the hemisphere constitutes an insurmountable obstacle to the participation of that state’s government in the Summits of the Americas process.”

Recognition of the different and often difficult paths to democracy provides an opening for productive dialogue, even between ideological foes, on ways of assisting Cuba in its construction of more democratic institutions. While Ottawa has maintained respectful relations with Havana since 1959, it definitely sees the Cuban regime as not meeting the standards of liberal democracy codified in the Democratic Charter. On that basis, it is understandable that Ottawa does not favour moves that might lower the bar on democracy in the region—at the summit or in other Inter-American fora.

Yet Canada does not wish to be left out in the cold, especially if Washington decides to go along with the majority view on Cuba’s participation. The Inter-American system, with the OAS at its centre, remains important because those are the only hemispheric institutions which include Canada as a full member (unlike the new Latin American and Caribbean Community (CELAC). Saving the Americas Summit is thus part of safeguarding Canada’s presence in the hemisphere. The tricky part is finding a way to save the summit and enabling Cuba to participate, without compromising Charter norms.

How might Canada contribute to that outcome?

First, Ottawa could see Cuba’s participation in the Americas Summit as a confidence-building measure rather than as a clear dilution of Inter-American democratic norms. Cuba’s participation in the Panama Summit would move it further along the path to reincorporation opened up at the San Pedro Sula General Assembly of the OAS in 2009. Yet it would not nullify the need for many other steps, by Havana and others, before Cuba could become a full member of the Inter-American system. As such, for Canada there would be little cost (and some possible benefits) in accepting Cuba’s participation in the Panama Summit.

Second, Ottawa could quietly support the construction of a summit agenda around a less controversial theme, such as the cooperative management of migration flows. Panama is not the place to reopen the Democratic Charter, with Cuba in the spotlight. Yet Ottawa could support a lower-profile discussion elsewhere on ways of breathing fresh life into the Charter.

The publications around the 10th anniversary of the Charter in 2011 (including the work of Canadian scholars like Maxwell Cameron and Thomas Legler) generated many ideas for strengthening the application of the Charter. Those range from compendia of best practices to the establishment of a special rapporteur on democracy. That conversation might interest Cuba and its allies, if it is broadened to include a consideration of how the participatory and substantive dimensions of democracy could be enhanced—as a complement to the mostly liberal, procedural dimensions codified in the Charter. This is complex and it will take time, much longer than the months leading up to the Panama Summit.

It will require adaptation in Cuba but also a considerable degree of conceptual and operational innovation on the OAS side. For those who think that the Harper government is unlikely to support that approach, let me cite the words of Foreign Minister Baird at the OAS General Assembly a few months ago. “Democracy”, he noted in Asunción, “is a journey, not a destination. There is no single outcome. Every democracy will look a little different, coming from a different set of experiences and from a different journey.”

This recognition of the different and often difficult paths to democracy provides an opening for productive dialogue, even between ideological foes, on ways of assisting Cuba in its construction of more democratic institutions. That could be timely, given the creation of the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFATD), which merges the democracy promotion and development mandates into one department.

Finally (and probably also quietly, since Ottawa has learned that megaphone diplomacy does not work on this file), Canada could continue supporting home-grown democratic development through technical cooperation with Cuban institutions. This could be done by supporting greater citizen participation in municipal governance; funding Cuban (quasi) civil society organizations working to enhance tolerance of diversity and the peaceful management of disputes; and backing Cuban researchers exploring ways to promote more governmental accountability.

Several Canadian non-governmental organizations are already engaged in such initiatives. More could be done to expand those efforts over the coming years, on the safe assumption that they will converge with internal processes such as generational change, as well as with the renewal of democratic norms in hemispheric fora.

See more at: http://cips.uottawa.ca/what-should-canada-do-about-cubas-participation-in-the-americas-summit/#sthash.TO8hwHTb.dpuf

000477_baranyi1-e1365429847141Stephen Baranyi

CIPS_Blog_Small

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WORKING CONDITIONS IN VENEZUELA SENDING CUBAN DOCTORS TO U.S.

CHRIS KRAUL,  11 September 2014 – Los Angeles Times -

Original article: http://www.latimes.com/world/mexico-americas/la-fg-venezuela-cuba-doctors-20140911-story.html

AAA1Worsening conditions in Venezuela are causing increasing numbers of Cuban medical personnel working there to immigrate to the United States under a special program that expedites their applications, according to Colombian officials who help process many of the refugees.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in Washington said the number of Cuban doctors, nurses, optometrists and medical technicians applying for U.S. visas under the Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program is running as much as 50% ahead of last year’s pace, which was nearly double that of the year before. At the current rate, more than 1,500 Cuban healthcare workers will be admitted to the United States this year.

For geographical reasons, neighboring Colombia is a favored trampoline for Cubans fleeing Venezuela, whose leftist government has struggled to rein in runaway inflation, shortages of goods and services and rising social unrest.

Cuba, which prides itself on a comprehensive healthcare system and has long exported doctors and nurses to friendly countries, maintains an estimated 10,000 healthcare providers in Venezuela. The medical outreach program is intended as partial payment for 100,000 barrels of oil that President Nicolas Maduro’s government ships to the Castro administration each day.

Nelia, a 29-year-old general practitioner from Santiago de Cuba, arrived in Bogota last month after what she said was a nightmarish year working in Venezuela’s Barrio Adentro program in the city of Valencia. She declined to disclose her last name for fear of reprisal back home. Nelia said her disillusionment started on her arrival in Caracas’ Maiquetia airport in mid-2013. She and several colleagues waited there for two days, sometimes sleeping in chairs, before authorities assigned her to a clinic in Valencia, she said.

“It was all a trick. They tell you how great it’s going to be, how you will able to buy things and how grateful Venezuelans are to have you. Then comes the shock of the reality,” Nelia said. Her clinic in Valencia had no air conditioning and much of the ultrasound equipment she was supposed to use to examine pregnant women was broken.

She described the workload as “crushing.” Instead of the 15 to 18 procedures a day she performed in Cuba, she did as many as 90 in Venezuela, she said. Crime is rampant, the pay is an abysmal $20 per month and Cubans are caught in the middle of Venezuela’s civil unrest, which pits followers of the late President Hugo Chavez — whose handpicked successor is Maduro — against more conservative, market-oriented forces. “The Chavistas want us there and the opposition does not. And there are more opposition people than Chavistas,” said Nelia, who was interviewed in a Colombian immigration office in Bogota.

A 32-year-old Cuban optometrist who identified himself as Manuel and who also fled Venezuela to apply for U.S. residency said that at his clinic in Merida he was prescribing and grinding up to 120 pairs of eyeglasses a day, triple his pace in Cuba.

“As a professional you want to be paid for what your work is worth. What we were getting, $20 a month, was not enough to pay even for food and transportation, much less a telephone call to Cuba now and then,” Manuel said. “That’s the main reason I want to go to Miami, to earn what I’m worth.”

Cubans have long had favored status as U.S. immigrants. Virtually any Cuban is guaranteed automatic residency and a path to citizenship simply by setting foot on U.S. territory, legally or not. The Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program gives medical personnel a leg up by allowing them to apply for residency at U.S. embassies. Though some Cubans apply at the U.S. Embassy in Caracas, the Venezuelan capital, others say they fear being seen there. Also, airfare to the United States from Colombia is much cheaper than from Venezuela.

The increasing flow of Cuban doctors is only part of a rising tide of Cubans seeking to reach the United States, many through Colombia. Lacking the special status of medical personnel, many U.S.-bound Cubans first land in Ecuador, where the government requires no visas. They then typically pass through Colombia to Panama with the help of coyotes, or human traffickers. However, many are detained in Colombia. Of 1,006 illegal immigrants detained in Colombia from January through July of this year for failing to have proper visas, 42% were Cuban, according to Colombia’s immigration agency director, Sergio Bueno Aguirre. The flow of Cubans had more than doubled from the year before.

One Colombian Foreign Ministry official who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the political sensitivity said the U.S. policy of allowing Cubans immigrant status simply by arriving in the United States has fed organized crime in Colombia and in other transit countries.

“Coyotes helping the Cubans transit through Colombia often use the migrants to carry drugs or submit to prostitution,” the official said. “Or the coyotes will just abandon them at a border, creating a big headache for the Colombian government, which has to take care of them or send them back home.”

Venezuela's President Maduro speaks with Cuba's President Castro during their meeting in Havana

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CUBA RELAXES SOME HOUSING REGULATIONS

9 September 2014 – Havana Times

Original here: http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=106049

HAVANA TIMES — The Cuban government has announced a series of measures aimed at restructuring the country’s current housing system and authorizing the building of dwellings on roofs, empty lots and State-owned land by the population.

The special issue of Cuba’s Official Gazette published this past Friday made public Council of State Decree Law 322/2014, a new legislation that substantially modifies the General Housing Law, in effect since 1988, and seeks to simplify the legal norms governing applications by citizens to request changes of address, the transfer of properties and individual construction work.

The legislation, signed by President Raul Castro on July 31, aims to “improve State housing services and reorganize housing-related activities, reassigning these to entities responsible for work hitherto governed by the National Housing Institute (INV).”

Urban Planning Control

This restructuring will involve the transfer of the INV’s chief functions to the Urban Planning Institute (IPF), presided by General Samuel Rodiles Planas, and to other State entities, such as the Ministries of Construction, Justice and Labor and Social Security and the Provincial and Municipal People’s Court system.

Following this government decision, the INV has become subordinate to the Ministry of Construction and is now tasked with directing, executing and enforcing State and government housing policy.

The Official Gazette also published seven complementary resolutions aimed at making the issuing of permits to the population more efficient, improving regional and urban organization and combatting illegal practices and construction work.

The legislative package will come into effect on January 5, 2015.

Assigning State lands to individuals or entities who request these for the building of homes, certifying that completed dwellings are habitable, approving procedures for technical reports used to value properties and transfer ownership of empty lots and flat roofs, are among the functions now taken on by the IPF.

Land Assignation

The new provisions will regulate the sale, purchase, donation and exchange of empty State lots.

The IPF will be empowered to assign State lots to individuals in need of these for the building of homes. The lot assigned will have to meet basic urban planning requirements, such that individuals may begin construction on these immediately.

“The Municipal Urban Planning Office, in cases approved by the Municipal Administrative Council and in accordance with the priorities established by the State, will be authorized to transfer ownership of State lots to individuals through the pertinent payments, giving these full rights over these properties, so that they may build homes in their jurisdiction, through the procedure to be established by the President of the Urban Planning Institute,” the Council of State Decree points out.

People who are assigned a State lot will be required to begin construction there within a year from purchase. Failing this, authorities will either extend the building permit for an additional year or decide to terminate the agreement, returning the amount paid.

Building on Flat Roofs

Those affected by natural disasters, people living in precarious conditions, welfare cases, those residing in State shelters or in earthquake or disaster-risk areas will be prioritized in the assignation of State lots.

Similarly, the transfer and use of flat roofs for the expansion of homes, through purchases and other mechanisms, will also be made more flexible.

“The owners of individual dwellings, dwellings located in buildings with several stories (where each story constitutes a single dwelling) and dwellings that are part of an apartment building, may, of mutual agreement, grant the owners of dwellings on the top floor the right to expand their homes, or grant a third party the right to build a new dwelling, in the flat roof of the building in question, provided it is technically feasible and does not violate any urban or regional regulations, following authorization from the Provincial Urban Planning Office,” the regulations specify.

The measures are aimed at alleviating Cuba’s housing deficit, calculated at 600,000 dwellings, and at encouraging individual construction efforts. According to official figures, a mere 26,634 new homes were built last year, the lowest figure registered since 2004. The most significant detail, however, is that nearly half (12,217) were built by the population, unaided by the State.

Cuba Apr 2012 012

Paseo del Prado

Cuba Apr 2012 090 Cuba Apr 2012 091 Cuba Mar 2014 094 Cuba Nov 2008 020Some potential reconstruction projects; Photos by A. Ritter

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DOES CUBA HAVE AN INDUSTRIAL FUTURE?

By Arch Ritter.

Attached here is the Power Point presentation Does Cuba Hava an Industrial Future made to the 2014 Conference of the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy,

New Picture (3)New Picture (3).bmpaaaaNew Picture (4)New Picture (5)New Picture (6)New Picture (7)

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EL DERECHO A VIAJAR A CUBA

Arturo López Levy

Cuando los funcionarios electos establecen diferentes normas para sí mientras limitan los derechos constitucionales del resto de los estadounidenses, la credibilidad del sistema político sufre y el capital de las instituciones democráticas se erosiona.

El caso del viaje a China de los asistentes del senador Marco Rubio y la congresista Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, patrocinado por el Estado-partido comunista, es un ejemplo doloroso. Durante décadas, los legisladores cubanoamericanos se han opuesto a los viajes a Cuba y amonestado ferozmente a cualquier colega o sus asistentes que lo ha hecho buscando información o para dialogar con el gobierno. Rubio y Ros-Lehtinen han hecho del tema de no viajar a países comunistas una prueba de integridad política y de fidelidad a los derechos humanos. Rubio ha dicho en el Senado que cada dólar que se gasta en un viaje a un país comunista financia directamente la represión. Cada dólar, excepto los gastados por sus asistentes en la Gran Muralla y Tiananmen mientras escuchaban los méritos del presidente Mao.

Cuando la hipocresía es expuesta, el liderazgo político es más necesario. Es el momento en que los líderes y la opinión pública deben tomar partido y dejar en claro cuáles son sus principios. La integridad marca la principal diferencia entre los que creen que los viajeros estadounidenses son –como Hillary Clinton lo expresa– “anuncios andantes” a favor de una sociedad abierta, en Cuba y en China; de quienes viajan a Pekín, mientras predican sus políticas anti-Castro restringiendo el derecho de los estadounidenses a viajar.

La Casa Blanca debería actuar con liderazgo. Cada vez que el senador Rubio y la congresista Ros-Lehtinen cuestionan ferozmente la moral de las decisiones de Obama para expandir los viajes pueblo-a-pueblo, la administración Obama reacciona tímidamente o no reacciona. Los funcionarios de Obama parecen olvidar el propio discurso del presidente sobre la importancia de comunicarse con la sociedad civil cubana y la actualización de una política concebida “desde antes que él naciera”.

Muchos cubanoamericanos que votaron dos veces por Obama están decepcionados porque el presidente da demasiado a los políticos pro-embargo y escucha muy poco a los que defienden sus promesas de diálogo y la comunicación con Cuba. Después de la reelección en 2012, ganando una mayoría cubanoamericana, la secretaria de Estado Hillary Clinton aconsejó al presidente Obama: “echar otro vistazo al embargo. No está logrando sus objetivos, y frena nuestra agenda más amplia en América Latina”. ¿Por qué no lo hace?

Después de la reforma migratoria cubana bajo Raúl Castro, es más fácil para un cubano, que vive bajo un gobierno comunista, viajar a Estados Unidos que para un ciudadano estadounidense, que vive en democracia, viajar a Cuba. Esta es una grave contradicción que pone a los que abogan por una Cuba democrática, con buenas relaciones con Estados Unidos, en seria desventaja política. El presidente Obama hizo lo correcto en 2011 cuando autorizó las licencias para viajes religiosos, educativos, humanitarios y de algunos otros propósitos no turísticos para viajar a Cuba. Pero, ¿por qué no elimina los procedimientos burocráticos engorrosos para esos viajes regulados y adopta una licencia general para cualquier viaje con propósito no turístico?

La inacción de la administración Obama ante el actual proceso de reformas en Cuba divide aún más a Washington de otros países democráticos. Europa está negociando un acuerdo amplio de cooperación económica y diálogo político con Cuba. En Cartagena, Colombia, en el 2012 durante la Cumbre de las Américas, América Latina habló con voz clara: todos los países del hemisferio, excepto Canadá y Estados Unidos, reafirmaron su deseo de incorporar a Cuba en la próxima Cumbre prevista en Panamá en la primavera de 2015.

La ansiedad de los aliados de Estados Unidos en América Latina crece cada día que la Cumbre de las Américas de 2015 se acerca. Brasil y un importante número de estados latinoamericanos y caribeños han declarado su intención de boicotear la Cumbre de 2015, si no es invitada Cuba. La invitación a Cuba no se trata tanto de tener a Raúl Castro en la foto de los presidentes, sino transmitir una desaprobación general a la política de aislamiento contra la isla, ayudando a la Casa Blanca a removerla.

Washington debe eliminar las incoherencias flagrantes entre los valores que predica y las prácticas de sus políticos. Todos los estadounidenses deberían gozar de igualdad ante la ley en el ejercicio de su derecho constitucional a viajar. El senador Rubio y la congresista Ros-Lehtinen no deben pontificar contra los viajes a Cuba después de que sus empleados visitaron Pekín y la Gran Muralla de la mano del partido-estado chino. Sus electores cubanoamericanos están desmintiendo sus posturas al ritmo de casi 400,000 visitas a Cuba cada año. No es coherente con la forma de vida estadounidense que un grupo disfrute de un derecho que sus representantes niegan al resto de la población.

Este incidente desastroso podría dar un giro para bien si el presidente Obama defendiese la libertad de viajar como un derecho humano. Algunos dirán que la Casa Blanca no puede desafiar el Congreso mediante políticas que atentan contra la ley Helms Burton. Pero si Estados Unidos quiere que otros países se unan a los esfuerzos para promover los derechos humanos y la apertura política en la Isla, debe dar el ejemplo practicando la libertad que predica. La libertad de viaje como un derecho humano es fundamental tanto en la política de Estados Unidos hacia Cuba como hacia China.

Arturo-Lopez-Levy-11 Arturo López Levy,  Escuela Josef Korbel de Estudios Internacionales de la Universidad de Denver.

 

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INSTITUTIONAL CHANGES OF CUBA’S ECONOMIC-SOCIAL REFORMS: STATE AND MARKET ROLES, PROGRESS, HURDLES, COMPARISONS, MONITORING AND EFFECTS

31See: http://www.brookings.edu/research/papers/2014/08/cubas-economic-social-reforms-mesalago

The original essay is available here: Mesa-Lago-Economic and Social Reforms in Cuba-Brookings-14

In INSTITUTIONAL CHANGES OF CUBA’S ECONOMIC-SOCIAL REFORMS, Carmelo Mesa-Lago, distinguished service professor emeritus of economics and Latin American studies at the University of Pittsburgh, evaluates the pros and cons of Cuba’s economic reform plans as they relate to institutional change.

Overall, Mesa-Lago concludes that institutional reforms in Cuba are advancing in a positive direction, albeit slowly. The most important of these so far has been the establishment of microcredit, bank accounts and wholesale markets for the non-state sector, and the sale of homes and establishment of inheritance rights for usufructuaries and home owners. However, key structural changes and components are still missing: integral price reform, elimination of monetary duality, a realistic exchange rate and bank system restructuring.

The author argues that if Cuba were to follow an adapted “socialist market” or mixed economy model, as in China and Vietnam –which have a private sector, open markets and foreign investment, combined with an indicative plan and decentralization of decision making — it would achieve much higher sustained economic growth. Furthermore, the state must permit self-employment in skilled, high-value-added jobs for university graduates, authorize medium-sized enterprises and cooperative ownership of businesses, allow true co-op independence, reduce excessive taxes on non-state workers, halt government measures that create uncertainty, and expand microcredit and wholesale markets. Mesa-Lago offers a variety of other policy recommendations that will help advance the process of institutional reform within the context of the ongoing reform process. However, time is of the essence as Raúl Castro has committed to retiring in February 2018, leaving him with only four years to complete the key institutional changes the nation urgently needs.

New Picture (3)

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The Causes & Consequences of Cuba’s Black Market

21 August 2014 –  Havana Times – Fernando Ravsberg*

http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=105653

HAVANA TIMES — The Cuban press is out to get re-sellers, as though their existence were news to anyone, as though they just now realized there is a black market that’s on every street corner in the country, selling just about everything one can sell.

In a news report aired on TV, they went as far as insinuating that some employees at State stores are accomplices of those who hoard and re-sell products. They are now “discovering” that the black market stocks up, in great measure, thanks to the complicity of store clerks. The reporting remains on the surface, addressing the effects but not daring to go to the root of a problem that has burdened the country for decades as a result of the chronic shortage of products – from screws to floor mops.

During the early years of the revolution, these shortages could be chalked up to the US embargo. Today, however, Cuba maintains trade relations with the entire world and can purchase the products people need in other markets. It doesn’t even seem to be a financial problem, because the products become available and disappear intermittently. Shaving foam can disappear for a couple of months and reappear at all stores overnight.

These ups and downs are what allow a group of clever folks to hoard up on and later re-sell these products at higher prices. A lack of foresight and planning when importing is what creates these temporary shortages that make the work of hoarders easier.

There is no doubt Cuba has a planned economy. The question is whether it is actually well planned. The truth is that, for decades, the country’s domestic trade system has functioned in a chaotic manner and no one has been able to organize it minimally.

A foreign journalist I know recently noted that, when toilet paper disappeared from all State shops, a supermarket in Havana had a full stock of pickled partridge that no one buys.  Who would decide to buy such a luxury canned product at a time when most store shelves are practically empty? The story brings to mind that anecdote involving a government official who imported a snow-sweeper to Cuba.

The Market and Consumption

Cuba’s domestic trade system doesn’t require “reforms”, it demands radical change, a new model. Such a change should begin with Cuba’s importers, bureaucratic companies that are ignorant of the interests and needs of consumers and buy products without rhyme or reason.

Many of their employees receive [under the table] commissions from suppliers and therefore prioritize, not the country’s interests, but their own pockets. They are the same people who received money from the corrupt foreign businessmen recently tried and convicted in Cuba.

To plan the country’s economy, the government should start by conducting market studies and getting to know the needs of consumers, in order to decide what to purchase on that basis. It Is a question of buying the products people need and in quantities proportional to the demand.

Planning means being able to organize import cycles such that there is regular supply of products, without any dark holes, like the ones that currently abound in all sectors of Cuba’s domestic trade, from dairy products to wood products.

Sometimes, this chaotic state of affairs has high costs for the country’s economy, such as when buses are put out of circulation because spare pieces were not bought on time, there isn’t enough wood to build the crates needed to store farm products or a sugar refinery is shut down because of lack of foresight.

Even the sale of school uniforms at State subsidized prices experiences these problems owing to a lack of different sizes. This is a problem seamstresses are always willing to fix, charging the parents a little extra money.

Cuba’s entire distribution system is rotten. Importers are paid commissions, shopkeepers sell products under the counter, butchers steal and resell poultry, ration-store keepers mix pebbles in with beans, agricultural and livestock markets tamper with weighing scales and bakers take home the flour and oil.

In the midst of this chaos we find the Cuban consumer, who does not even have an office he or she can turn to and demand their rights (when they are sold rotten minced meat, and old pair of shoes or a refrigerator that leaks water, for instance).

Speculation is no doubt a reprehensible activity, but it is not the cause of the black market. The country may launch a new campaign against hoarders, but it will be as unsuccessful as all previous one if an efficient commercial system isn’t created.

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