Author Archives: Pujol Joaquín P.

New Site on the Cuban Economy: “ASCE BLOG”

 New Picture (10)

 

The Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy established a Blog  some months ago. It promises to be the locus of timely and serious economic analyses and commentaries on the Cuban economy.

The location of the Blog is  http://www.ascecuba.org/blog/

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The Table of Contents as of January 6 2013 was as follows. Each article is linked to the original location on the ASCE Blog.

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Cuba’s External Debt Problem: Daunting Yet Surmountable  by Luis R. Luis

The external debt of Cuba is not excessively large relative to GDP, though this is distorted by an overvalued currency and the reliance on non-cash services exports. Recent bilateral restructurings are easing the debt burden but are insufficient to lift creditworthiness and restore access to international financial markets. [More]

Controls, Subsidies and the Behavior of Cuba’s GDP Price Deflator by Ernesto Hernández-Catá

In this paper a model of overall price behavior for the Cuban economy is estimated. The model, despite limitations, explains reasonably well the path of the GDP deflator. Importantly, the model sheds light on the interaction between unit labor costs, consumption subsidies and the behavior of prices in the economy. [More]

A Triumph of Intelligence: Cuba Moves Towards Exchange Rate Unification by Ernesto Hernández-Catá

The movement towards a unified exchange rate is positive, though a gradualist approach presents some dangers, argues Ernesto Hernandez-Cata in this post. [More]

La Senda de Cuba para Aumentar la Productividad by Rolando Castaneda

Este artículo de Rolando Castañeda señala la necesidad de estimular la actividad privada propiamente dicha para alcanzar mayor productividad y empleo como han demostrado un gran número de economías en transición. [More]

Another Cuban Statistical Mystery by Ernesto Hernández-Catá

Ernesto Hernandez-Cata estimates the net value of Cuban donations abroad. [More]

La Estructura Institucional del Producto Interno Bruto en Cuba by Ernesto Hernández-Catá

Este trabajo presenta estimaciones de la estructura del PIB cubano para el gobierno, empresas del estado y el sector no estatal e ilustra la relativamente baja contribución del sector privado a la economía. [More]

Oscar Espinosa Chepe by ASCE

The members of ASCE are deeply saddened by the news of the passing after a long illness of Oscar Espinosa Chepe in Madrid on September 23.[More]

Convertible Pesos: How Strong is the Central Bank of Cuba? by Luis R. Luis

In this post Luis R. Luis analyzes implications of the lack of full dollar backing for the convertible Cuban peso (CUC), one of the two national currencies circulating in Cuba. [More]

Government Support to Enterprises in Cuba by Ernesto Hernández-Catá

This post looks at state support to Cuban enterprises and uncovers that net transfers are again rising. The reasons for this are not always clear but Ernesto Hernandez-Cata offers a plausible explanation. [More]

A Political Economy Approach to the Cuban Embargo by Roger Betancourt

Roger Betancourt analyzes the evolution of the Cuban embargo and shows that some parts have already been lifted. Verifiable human rights guarantees may provide a way to elicit political support in the US for action to change trade and financial elements of the embargo. [More]

Cinco mitos sobre el sistema cambiario cubano by Ernesto Hernández-Catá

Ernesto Hernández-Catá comenta sobre el sistema de cambios múltiples vigente en Cuba. [More]

La dualidad monetaria en Cuba: Comentario sobre el artículo de Roberto Orro by Joaquin P. Pujol

Joaquín P. Pujol comenta en esta nota sobre la dualidad monetaria en Cuba. [More]

Unificación monetaria en Cuba: ¿quimera o realidad? by Roberto Orro

En este artículo Roberto Orro describe el complejo sistema monetario y cambiario de Cuba y sugiere que la unificacion monetaria no está a la vista. [More]

Consumption v. Investment: Another Duality of the Cuban Economy by Roberto Orro

Roberto Orro argues in this article that the Cuban economy experienced two distinct periods where either investment or consumption prevailed. This behavior was influenced by external factors among them the assistance derived from the Soviet Union as contrasted to that coming presently from Venezuela. [More]

Gauging Cuba’s Economic Reforms by Luis R. Luis

In this post Luis R. Luis gauges the progress of Cuba’s recent economic reforms using Transition Indicators developed by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). [More]

On the Economic Impact of Post-Soviet and Post-Venezuelan Assistance to Cuba by Ernesto Hernández-Catá

The end of Venezuelan aid to Cuba will have a sizable negative impact on the economy though very likely of lesser magnitude than the withdrawal of Soviet assistance in the 1990’s concludes Ernesto Hernandez-Cata in this article. [More]

The Significant Assistance of Venezuela to Cuba: How Long Will it Last? by Rolando Castaneda

Rolando H. Castaneda argues that the high levels of Venezuelan aid to Cuba are unsustainable and constitute a heavy burden for both countries even for Cuba in the medium-term as the assistance allows the postponement of essential economic reforms. [More]

Cuba: The Mass Privatization of Employment Started in 2011 by Ernesto Hernández-Catá

In this post Ernesto Hernandez-Cata analyzes Cuban labor market data, identifying large sectoral changes in employment that signal the beginning of large scale privatization of employment in the island. [More]

How Large is Venezuelan Assistance to Cuba? by Ernesto Hernández-Catá

In this article Ernesto Hernandez-Cata explores Cuban official statistics to show that Venezuelan subsidies rival or exceed those flowing from the former Soviet Union during the 1980s. This raises questions of sustainability and severe adjustment for both countries. [More]

Cuba Ill-Prepared for Venezuelan Shock  by Luis R. Luis

Cuba’s weak international accounts and liquidity and lack of access to financial markets place the country in a difficult position to withstand a potential cut in Venezuelan aid argues Luis R. Luis. The failure of reforms to boost farm output and merchandise exports make the economy highly dependent on Venezuelan aid and remittances from Cubans living abroad. [More]

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Joaquin P. Pujol: “Where is Cuba Going?”

Joaquin Pujol has writter up his analysis based on his presentation at the August 2012 conference of the Association for the Study of the Cuban Econ omy. It is entitled  Where is Cuba Going? What economic policies have been adopted and what are the results thus far?

An abbreviated version of the Conclusions of the essay are presented below. The Complete essay is located here: “Where is Cuba Going”

Conclusions

Raul Castro has attempted to address the considerable popular discontent over living conditions on the island by opening up somewhat the economy—but only to a very modest degree, given his fear that broad-based economic reforms could be destabilizing. Yet, if no improvements are achieved, Cubans could demand political change, which Raúl has absolutely no intention of making. Rather, he will attempt to deal with the most pressing issues, such as food production, as well as housing and other economic and socioeconomic matters.

There has been little liberalization of the economy, with only a small opening to private employment and limited reform in the agriculture sector under Raúl Castro, the 10-year renewable lease on agricultural land being the most important. The dual Cuban peso/Convertible peso currency regime is a large impediment to economic reform, and development and economic policymaking remains ad hoc. There are other major disincentives to enterprise: price controls are still in effect, micro-businesses are tightly controlled, with little access to credit and highly taxed. The result is low product diversity, a large underground economy, widespread inefficiency, a low scale of production, wasted resources, contempt for law, corruption, and lack of innovation.

The policies implemented so far are quite timid and unlikely to achieve the desired results. Much deeper structural reforms are required to allow the private sector to contribute to the growth of the economy so as to allow the State to concentrate on its role of providing an appropriate legal and regulatory framework for the activities to flourish instead of trying to micro manage every thing.

The recent reforms in agriculture have many limitations, and are unlikely to significantly change the deteriorated situation that is evident in that sector. Overall food production in most items is still significantly below targets and shortages have been reported in most basic agricultural products. Cuba is producing less food than it did five years ago despite the efforts to increase agriculture production. The “land reform” has not produced many results in spite of a significant increase in usufruct farmers. All too many must still sell via state marketing agencies, few have access to the bank credit recently promised (Cuban banks are really transfer agencies; they have no experience in making true loans), and access to fertilizer, seed, etc. is still via inefficient state enterprises.

A number of problems have arisen as a result of the cutback in government expenditures. There have been shortages of imported inputs that have affected agricultural production and contributed to the stagnation of industrial output. The manufacturing crisis continues: production in 2008 was at 52 per cent of the 1989 level, according to official statistics, and has remained flat since then.

There has been a significant deterioration in education and health services, and a number of sicknesses long gone from Cuba have returned (such as dengue fever, conjunctivitis, influenza and even cholera). Moreover, the postponement of a large number of investment projects has resulted in a further neglect of maintenance and repairs of existing facilities. The elimination of government cafeterias and the reduction of subsidies through the rationing card mechanism have shifted the demand for food to the private market, while the decline in production has contributed to a 20 percent increase in prices of agricultural and meat products to consumers. Meanwhile, the morale of the public sector employees has plummeted and there has been a significant increase in thefts and corruption in the State enterprises and public offices.

A recent government report said there were 5 million people employed in 2011, similar to 2009, while unemployment rose from 86,000 to 164,000. Of those working, 391,500 were self-employed in 2011, when the government loosened regulations on small businesses, compared with 147,400 in 2009. More than 170,000 individuals have also taken advantage of a land lease program begun in 2008, the government recently reported. There was some significant progress reported in trimming the bureaucracy as the number of “directors” fell from 380,000 in 2009 to 249,000 in 2011.

But the shift from state to non-state employment is aimed in part at improving state wages and in this regard the plan has failed to achieve much progress to date. Cuba’s leaders have insisted that the country’s abysmally low state salaries can’t rise unless economic output increases. The average state worker is paid about $20 a month, and has to supplement that income by working odd jobs on the side, often in the informal sector. The average monthly wage increased from 429 pesos in 2009 to 455 in 20l1, the equivalent of just over a dollar based on the official exchange rate of 25 to 1, not nearly enough to stimulate productivity. Meanwhile, the government reported food prices alone increased 20 percent in 2011.

There are important limitations on the activities of self-employment. In addition to the very limited number of authorized activities, there is not a wholesale market where these individuals can obtain the necessary input to carry on their activities and thus in most cases they have to turn to the informal grey or black market for their supplies or try to get them from abroad thru “mules” that bring them into the country. While at the beginning the government was permitting such activities it has recently imposed a set of high tariffs on the importation of such goods. The government also has imposed high taxes on these activities, including on the hiring of additional laborers and does not recognize the costs that may be involved. The licensing process and the authorization to carry on with the activities are subject to arbitrary bureaucratic decisions and the risk of corruptive practices by government officials. The prevailing monetary duality and the various exchange rates that are not the product of a market mechanism create difficulties for transactions and distort the profitability of the activities. New start-up businesses in Cuba still can’t import supplies or equipment directly from abroad. They continue to face elaborate bureaucratic obstacles to the most trivial operational needs, like banking services and advertising. Investment capital from foreign partners can only come in secret.

A priority two years ago was the plan to shed 2 million workers from public payrolls over the course of five years. One hundred eighty-three private trades were approved by the Cuban Communist Party to absorb downsized workers. However, the limitations of private-sector work, inflexible laws, high taxes, the continuation of a dual currency system (pesos and CUCs), and poor conditions to acquire inputs have thwarted these efforts.

Surveys now show that well about 80 percent of the increased “self-employed” were previously unemployed (ie, illegally working) or retirees. About a quarter of the prior registered have turned in their licenses.  The costs and harassment were so great they were reluctant to continue. This meant the “non-state” sector could not absorb the fired public workers, the first year of dismissals (let alone the six months planned) only led to a reduction of 137,000.

While there has been some liberalization in agriculture and the labor market and there has been some dismantling of the centralized decision making model, the Cuban economic model is still very close to the one used in the former Soviet Union. Non-State enterprises are limited to agriculture, a small foreign investment sector and a very limited number of self-employment activities. The State authorities retain the power to dictate the majority of the prices in the economy, as well as an excessive number of regulations of both domestic and international trade. The control over the financial flows and the rate of exchange restrict heavily any entrepreneurial initiative and the legal framework is not clearly defined. The State is still dictating the allocation of resources leaving very little room for individual initiative and the working of appropriate incentives to bring about an improvement in productivity.

Despite the efforts to improve the performance of the public sector and to give a greater role to private activity overall domestic economic activity and the well-being of the population continues to decline, there continues to be a decapitalization of the industrial park and it is unlikely that this will improve in the absence of foreign investment.

While some of the policy changes are in the right direction, the reforms so far are too timid, there are too many limitations.  Much of the disconnect between the reforms and the results stems from the timidity of the reforms  The central challenge facing Cuba is that its policy framework remains an impediment to productivity and growth. Pressure from both external vulnerabilities and increasingly, aging costs and emigration, are adding to this fundamental challenge.

Overall, there has been disappointment that more significant economic reforms have not materialized under Raúl Castro. Reforms such as currency unification, free access to information technology and free foreign travel in support of Cuba’s knowledge economy, or a true rationalization of the public sector, seem a long way off.

Despite the liberalization measures, illegal Cuban migration, after years of decline, is up again and unless there is a significant improvement in the standards of living Cubans will continue to leave the country by whatever means become available.

Joaquin Pujol

 

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Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy, 2011 Conference Proceedings

ASCE, the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy has just published the Proceedings of its 2011 Conference. The Proceeding include a wealth of information and analyses. All articles for 2011 and indeed all the Conference proceedings for the last 21 years are freely available on the ASCE Web Site

Below is the Table of Contents for the 2011 Proceedings with all articles hyper-linked to the original ASCE source.

Preface

Conference Program

Table of Contents

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Cuba in Transition: Volume 20 Proceedings of the Twentieth Annual Meeting of the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy

The papers from the 2010 meetings of the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy have just been posted on the ASCE Web Site and can be found at Papers and Proceedings of the Twentieth Annual Meeting of ASCE.

As usual, a wide range of excellent papers are presented at ASCE’s annual meetings Many essays include valuable, original and ground-breaking analyses on a wide range of economic as well as socio-economic and politico-economic issues..

A Table of Contents with hyperlinked titles of the papers is included below.

Preface

Conference Program

Table of Contents

The Cuban Economy in 2010 as Seen by Economists Within the Island and Other Observers

Joaquín P. Pujol

La Economía Cubana: ¿Tiempos de Esperanza?

Oscar Espinosa Chepe

Crisis Management of Cuban International Liquidity

Luis R. Luis

If It Were Just the Marabú… Cuba’s Agriculture 2009-10

G.B. Hagelberg

The Numbers Diet: Food Imports as Economic Indicators

Lauren Gifford

Government-Controlled Travel Costs to Cuba and Costs of Related Consular Services: Analysis and International Comparisons

Sergio Díaz-Briquets

Envios de Remesas a Cuba: Desarrollo, Evolución e Impacto

Emilio Morales Dopico

Dashed Expectations: Raúl Castro’s Management of The Cuban Economy, 2006–2010

Jorge F. Pérez-López

Cuba: ¿Hacia otro “Periodo Especial”?

Mario A. González-Corzo

Cuban Education and Human Capital Formation

Enrique S. Pumar

La Masonería Cubana y su Contribución a la Sociedad Civil

Jorge Luis Romeu

The Internet and Emergent Blogosphere in Cuba: Downloading Democracy, Booting Up Development, or Planting the Virus of Dissidence and Destabilization?

Ted Henken

El Insostenible Apoyo Económico de Venezuela a Cuba y sus Implicaciones

Rolando H. Castañeda

Cuba-Venezuela Health Diplomacy: The Politics of Humanitarianism

Maria C. Werlau

British Policy-Making and Our Leyland in Havana (1963–1964)

Maria Carla Chicuén

La Desigualdad en Cuba: El Color Cuenta

Natalie Kitroeff

A Macroeconomic Approach to Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) Inflow from the People’s Republic of China to Cuba

Orlando R. Villaverde

A Survey of the Relationship between Cuba and China: A Chinese Perspective

Pin Zuo

The Evolution of the Cuban Military: A Comparative Look at the FAR with the
Bureaucratic-Authoritarian Model of South America

Michael Aranda

Empowering the Cuban People Through Access to Technology

Cuba Study Group

The Global Economic and Financial Crisis and Cuba’s Healthcare and Biotechnology Sector: Prospects For Survivorship and Longer-term Sustainability

Elaine Scheye

Globalization and the Socialist Multinational: Cuba and ALBA’s Grannacional Projects at the Intersection of Business and Human Rights

Larry Catá Backer

Racismo Estructural en Cuba y Disidencia Política: Breves Antecedentes

Ramón Humberto Colás

Arbitration and Mediation: Impartial Forums to Resolve International Commercial Disputes in Cuba

Rolando Anillo-Badia

Gazing at the Green Light: The Legal and Business Aspects of Real Property Investment in Cuba

Richard M. David

The Creation and Evolution of the Legal Black Hole at Guantánamo Bay

Michael J. Strauss

Las Relaciones Cuba-Israel: A la Espera de una Nueva Etapa

Arturo López-Levy

Revolutionary Cuba’s GDP: A Survey of Methods and Estimates

Jorge F. Pérez-López

A Dynamic Factor Model of Quarterly Real Gross Domestic Product Growth in the Caribbean: The Case of Cuba and the Bahamas

Philip Liu and Rafael Romeu

Cuba’s Attempts at Democracy: The Colony

Roger R. Betancourt

Lessons Learned from 20 Years of Privatization: Albania, Estonia and Russia

Jorge A. Sanguinetty and Tania Mastrapa

The Cuban Tourism Sector: A Note On Performance in the first Decade of the 21st Century

María Dolores Espino

Prospects for Tourism in Cuba: Report on the Residential Sales/Leases in Golf and Marina Developments

Antonio R. Zamora

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General

CARMELO MESA-LAGO, La paradoja económica cubana, El Pais, 12 July 2009;

Oscar Espinosa Chepe, “CUBA ANTE UN FUTURO INCIERTO”, Cuba in Transition, ASCE, 2008

Joaquín P. Pujol, “ECONOMIC CHALLENGES FACING THE CUBAN AUTHORITIES”, Cuba in Transition, ASCE, 2008

Emily Morris, Cuba’s Economy: Prospects for Change, (Power Point Presentation) Center for Strategic and International, Studies, Washington, December 2nd, 2008

Archibald R. M. Ritter, Cuba: Current Challenges and Alternate Economic Futures, (Power Point Presentation) Center for Strategic and International, Studies Washington D.C., December 2, 2008

Ernesto Hernández-Catá, “A BRIEF COMPARATIVE HISTORY OF GROSS DOMESTIC
PRODUCTION IN ‘REVOLUTIONARY’ CUBA”, Cuba in Transition,
ASCE, 2008

Stephen Baranyi and Ann Weston, Editors, Policy Forum on the Cuban Economy: Challenges and Options, A Report, September 20, 2007, The North-South Institute, Ottawa, Canada

Reinaldo Escobar, “Una familia cubana concluye el 2006, Estudio sobre la economía doméstica de una familia cubana,” Consenso; Desde Cuba, Numero 01, 2007

Carmelo Mesa-Lago, “Problemas sociales y económicos en Cuba durante la crisis y la recuperación”, Revista de la CEPAL, 86, Agosto, 2005

Jorge A. Sanguinetty, “LAS RUINAS INVISIBLES DE UNA SOCIEDAD: DESTRUCCIÓN Y
EVOLUCIÓN DEL CAPITAL SOCIAL EN CUBA”, Cuba in Transition
, ASCE 2005

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