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Book Review: Al Campbell (Editor) Cuban Economists on the Cuban Economy.
9 Jul 2014
Cuba’s New Foreign Investment Law: Amplified Discrimination against Cuban Small Enterprise Operators and in Favor of Foreign Enterprises.
17 Apr 2014
Book Review: ¿Quo vadis, Cuba? La incierta senda de las reformas
14 Apr 2014
Reordenamiento Laboral: Quién se queda, quién se va?; Labor Force Down-Sizing in Cuba’s Medical System
9 Apr 2014
Cuba’s Conception Conundrum: A Valentine’s Day Puzzle
14 Feb 2014
POTENTIALS AND PITFALLS OF CUBA’S MOVE TOWARD NON-AGRICULTURAL COOPERATIVES
30 Jan 2014
Book Review: Carmelo Mesa-Lago and Jorge Pérez-López, Cuba Under Raúl Castro: Assessing the Reforms
28 Oct 2013
CAN WORKERS’ DEMOCRACY IN CUBA’S NEW NON-AGRICULTURAL COOPERATIVES CO-EXIST WITH AUTHORITARIANISM?
7 Oct 2013
CAN CUBA RE-INDUSTRIALIZE?
5 Oct 2013
The Tax Regimen for the Mariel Export Processing Zone: More Tax Discrimination against Cuban Micro-enterprises and Citizens?
26 Sep 2013
Oscar Espinosa Chepe, 1940-2013
23 Sep 2013
“Political Science”: When Will Cuban Universities Join the World?
17 Jun 2013
“ASSESSING THE GOALS AND IMPACT OF THE CUBAN EMBARGO AFTER 50 YEARS”
25 Mar 2013
Cuba-Russia Debt Write-Off and Aircraft Leasing: Win-Lose or Win-Win?
22 Feb 2013
Raul on a Roll; Anti-Reformers in Retreat!
21 Jan 2013
The Economic Implications for Cuba of Relaxing Restrictions on the Freedom of Movement
17 Oct 2012
Cuba’s Economic Problems and Prospects in a Changing Geo-Economic Environment
13 Jul 2012
My Skepticism Runs High, but Maybe I am Wrong! Some Articles on the Moringa Oleifera.
27 Jun 2012
Still More “Good Advice” from Fidel!
26 Jun 2012
Cuba in the 2012 Yale University “Environmental Performance Index Rankings.”
14 Jun 2012
Cuba’s Debt Situation: Official Secrecy and Financial “Jineterismo”
8 Jun 2012
Cuba: Still Paying Homage to the Economic Absurdities of “Che” Guevara
20 Apr 2012
Cuba’s World Heritage Sites
16 Mar 2012
The Concept of a “Loyal Opposition” and Raul Castro’s Regime
28 Feb 2012
Poor Fidel: Repudiated by his Own Brother and Reduced to Playing “Chicken Little’”
13 Jan 2012
Johann Sebastian Bach, the “Stasi” and Cuba
9 Dec 2011
Fidel Castro: The Cowardice of Autocracy
4 Nov 2011
Liberating Cuba’s Long-Suppressed Resource: Entrepreneurship
20 Oct 2011
The “Home Hardware” Cooperative Model and its Relevance for Cuba
19 Oct 2011
Can Cuba Recover from its De-Industrialization? I. Characteristics and Causes
27 Sep 2011
Cuba: A Half-Century of Monetary Pathology and Citizen’s Freedom of Movement
23 Sep 2011
A Further Step in the Liberalization of the Regulatory and Tax Environment for Small Enterprise Has Raul Now Got the “Horse before the Cart”?
27 May 2011
Up-Date on Canadian-Cuban Economic Relations
27 May 2011
Sixth Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba: Will Raul Forge His Own Legacy?
16 Apr 2011
Cuba’s Economic Agenda and Prospects: An Optimistic View!
8 Apr 2011
Cuba’s Economic Reform Process under President Raul Castro: Challenges, Strategic Actions and Prospective Performance
4 Apr 2011
Recuperation and Development of the Bahi ́a de la Habana
29 Mar 2011
An Overview Evaluation of Economic Policy in Cuba circa 2010
15 Mar 2011
A Major Slow-Down for the Public Sector Layoff / Private Sector Job Creation Strategy
1 Mar 2011
Cuba’s Standings in Social, Political, Economic and Environmental Indices in Comparative International Perspective
3 Feb 2011
Has the US Tourism Tsunami to Cuba Already Begun?
2 Feb 2011
Cuba’s Best Friend: the Canadian Winter
25 Jan 2011
Micro-enterprise Tax Reform, 2010: The Right Direction but Still Onerous and Stultifying
10 Jan 2011
“Shifting Realities in ‘Special Period. Cuba”, LATIN AMERICAN RESEARCH REVIEW, volume 45 number 3, 2010
17 Dec 2010
Cuba’s 12 to 20 Chair Reform: Can the Small Enterprise Sector Save the Cuban Economy?
15 Dec 2010
Cuban Demography and Development: the “Conception Seasonality Puzzle”, the “Dissipating Demographic Dividend” and Emigration.
25 Nov 2010
Still the “Bestest” and the “Worstest” and Maybe the Most Opaque: Cuba in the 2010 UNDP Human Development Report
5 Nov 2010
Does Sherritt International Have a Future in Cuba?
20 Oct 2010
Jump-Starting the Introduction of Conventional Western Economics in Cuba
19 Oct 2010
- Book Review: Al Campbell (Editor) Cuban Economists on the Cuban Economy.
WHICH WAY CUBA? THE 2013 STATUS OF POLITICAL TRANSFORMATIONS
13 Aug 2014
AFTER OFFSHORE OIL FAILURE, CUBA SHIFTS ENERGY FOCUS
13 Aug 2014
Book Review: Al Campbell (Editor) Cuban Economists on the Cuban Economy.
9 Jul 2014
Mariela Castro in Ottawa: “I believe in the project Cuba is developing”
9 Jul 2014
COMUNICACIÓN PÚBLICA de Roberto Veiga y Lenier González
1 Jul 2014
CUBAN PROSECUTORS SEEK 15 YEARS FOR CANADIAN BUSINESSMAN IN BRIBERY CASE
1 Jul 2014
Comisión de Derechos Humanos publica listado de presos políticos, JUNIO DE 2014
23 Jun 2014
CUBAN-AMERICANS AGREE: TIME TO END THE EMBARGO
18 Jun 2014
Is Cuba heading towards a repeat of the 2003 Black Spring?
17 Jun 2014
¿Resurgirá el mercado laboral en Cuba?
17 Jun 2014
- WHICH WAY CUBA? THE 2013 STATUS OF POLITICAL TRANSFORMATIONS
- karolina on The Marketing of “Che” Guevara: A Review of “Che’s Afterlife: The Legacy of an Image”, by Michael Casey
- Havana Tourist Attractions / Travel Guide / Tips / Blog on Cuba’s World Heritage Sites
- Vladimir Laplace on Time to hug a Cuban
- Analysis: The Mariel Zone — more tax discrimination against Cubans? « Cuba Standard, your best source for Cuban business news on The Tax Regimen for the Mariel Export Processing Zone: More Tax Discrimination against Cuban Micro-enterprises and Citizens?
- Biblioteca Digital Cubana | Nuestras Voces Latinas on BIBLIOTECA DIGITAL CUBANA
- Laz on Proyecciones macroeconómicas de una Cuba sin Venezuela
- Rita Maria Garcia Betancourt on Clase de economía política para el Ministerio del Interior (MININT) en Cuba, por Juan Triana Cordovi,
- Vladimir Laplace on The “FIDEL” Models Never Worked; Soviet and Venezuelan Subsidization Did
- Arch Ritter on The “FIDEL” Models Never Worked; Soviet and Venezuelan Subsidization Did
- Vladimir Laplace on The “FIDEL” Models Never Worked; Soviet and Venezuelan Subsidization Did
Por Redacción CaféFuerte, 25 Marzo 2013
El gobernante Raúl Castro prosiguió su cruzada contra la corrupción y el desorden administrativo en el país con la creación de un órgano estatal de control que estudiará y dictaminará sobre los casos significativos de ilegalidades y las medidas disciplinarias para enfrentarlas.
Un decreto del Consejo de Estado, publicado por la Gaceta Oficial anunció la designación de la Comisión Estatal de Control (CEC), que funcionará en los niveles nacional y provincial, y tendrá por objetivo “frenar y liquidar la corrupción administrativa”. La CEC procederá al análisis y estudio de casos en los que se manifiesten “ilegalidades, presuntos hechos delictivos y de corrupción para profundizar en las deficiencias detectadas, los modos de operar, características, causas y condiciones y los efectos producidos”, señala el decreto, publicado el pasado 14 de marzo.
Además buscará “alertar y recomendar medidas de carácter preventivo y de otra índole en el interés de eliminar o disminuir, en lo posible, la reiteración de tales hechos”, y dará seguimiento a las medidas adiministrativas y disciplinarias adoptadas con los responsables directos y colaterales del acto delictivo.
Contralora General al mando
El organismo estará presidido a nivel nacional por la Contralora General, Gladys Bejerano, vicepresidenta del Consejo de Estado, y deberá nombrar como vicepresidente al Primer Vicecontralor General, según el documento.
El resto de los integrantes de la CEC serán los ministros de Finanzas y Precios, Lina Olinda Pedraza, y de Justicia, María Esther Reus; y representantes de la Fiscalía General y los ministerios del Interior, Fuerzas Armadas, Economía y Planificación, Relaciones Exteriores, Comercio Exterior y la Inversión Extranjera, y Trabajo y Seguridad Social, así como del Banco Central de Cuba, la Oficina Nacional de Administración Tributaria y la Aduana General de la República.
La CEC sustituye a una comisión gubernamental con similares fines que había sido instituida en julio del 2008 como órgano asesor del gabinete de Raúl Castro. La creación del nuevo organismo anticorrupción se suma a la batalla declarada por Raúl Castro contra este flagelo, que desangra la vida económica y social del país.
Durante la sesión de la Asamblea Nacional del Poder Popular del pasado 24 de febrero, Raúl Castro llamó a mantener el enfrentamiento a las indisciplinas e ilegalidades de todo tipo, incluyendo el combate a la corrupción que atentan contra las bases mismas del sistema socialista.
Orden, disciplina y exigencia
“Sin la conformación de un ambiente de orden, disciplina y exigencia en la sociedad, cualquier resultado será efímero”, recalcó el gobernante, que anunció que en la sesión del parlamento del próximo julio se trataría el tema a pronfundidad.
Las indisciplinas sociales e ilegalidades administrativas serán también objeto de análisis en las asambleas provinciales del Poder Popular, previas a la sesión parlamentaria.
A mediados de este mes, en una reunión amplada del Consejo de Ministros, Castro insistió en que trabajar con disciplina y exigencia es imprescindible para restablecer el orden en todos los escenarios de la sociedad cubana. La prensa oficial se ha volcado al combate de las ilegalidades y la corrupción mediante reportes y artículos sobre el tema.
“El control es parte del trabajo y no una tarea adicional”, tituló este lunes el diario Granma una entrevista conDarma Carina Solá, Contralora Jefe de la Dirección Integral de Control de la Contraloría General.
Desde comienzos de año la Contraloría General realiza auditorías en organismos y empresas estatales, lol que ha arrojado múltiples deficiencias en el funcionamiento y control de recursos, así como en el cumplimiento de los contratos.
The Dean Rusk Center for International Law and Policy, University of Georgia School of Law presented a most interesting conference on The Cuban Embargo: Policy Outlook after 50 Years on March 22, 2013. The principal organizers of the conference were Ambassador C. Donald Johnson, Director, Dean Rusk Center for International Law and Policy and Laura Tate Kagel, Assistant Director, Dean Rusk Center for International Law and Policy.
The Conference included a broad range of views on the issue from Dan Fisk, the major author of the Helms-Burton Bill to Ambassador Jose Cabanas of the Cuban Interest Section in Washington, and from Ricardo Torres and Jorge Mario Sanchez of the Center for the Study of he Cuban Economy to Vicky Huddleston, former US Ambassador to Cuba. The Dean Rusk Center will publish a “Conference Proceedings” document in the near future and I will make this available on this site when it appears.
In the meantime, here is the Power Point version of my presentation: “ASSESSING THE GOALS AND IMPACT OF THE CUBAN EMBARGO AFTER 50 YEARS”
Friday, March 22, 2013, 8:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. Dean Rusk Hall, Larry Walker Room, 4th Floor
8:30 a.m. Registration and Coffee
9:00 a.m. WELCOME AND INTRODUCTION
Rebecca H. White, Dean, University of Georgia School of Law
C. Donald Johnson, Director, Dean Rusk Center
9:15 a.m. PANEL 1— ASSESSING THE GOALS AND IMPACT OF THE CUBAN EMBARGO AFTER FIFTY YEARS
- Archibald R.M. Ritter, Distinguished Research Professor Emeritus, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada
- Ricardo Torres, Deputy Director, Center for the Study of the Cuban Economy (CEEC), University of Havana, Cuba
- Ray Walser, Senior Policy Analyst, Latin America, The Heritage Foundation, Washington, D.C.
Moderator: C. Donald Johnson, Director, Dean Rusk Center
11:00 a.m. PANEL 2— EXECUTIVE AND LEGISLATIVE PATHWAYS TO REMOVING SANCTIONS
- Daniel W. Fisk, Vice President for Policy and Strategic Planning, International Republican Institute, Washington, D.C.
- Vicki Huddleston, former Chief of Mission, Interests Section of U.S.A., Havana, Cuba
- Robert L. Muse, Attorney, Washington, DC
Moderator: Timothy L. Meyer, Assistant Professor, University of Georgia School of Law
12:45 p.m. KEYNOTE ADDRESS: José R. Cabañas Rodríguez, Chief, Cuban Interests Section, Washington, D.C.
1:45 p.m. Break
2:00 p.m. PANEL 3— TRADE AND INVESTMENT OPPORTUNITIES AND THE U.S.-CUBAN ECONOMIC RELATIONSHIP IN A POST EMBARGO REGIME
- Jonathan C. Benjamin-Alvarado, Professor of Political Science, University of Nebraska at Omaha
- Gary W. Black, Commissioner of Agriculture for the State of Georgia
- C. Parr Rosson, III, Professor and Head, Department of Agricultural Economics, Texas A&M University
- Jorge Mario Sánchez Egozcue, Senior Researcher and Professor, Center for the Study of the Cuban Economy (CEEC), University of Havana, Cuba
Moderator: Marisa Anne Pagnattaro, Professor of Legal Studies, Terry College of Business , University of Georgia
3:30 p.m. CLOSING
By Jeff Franks
HAVANA | Wed Mar 20, 2013
HAVANA (Reuters) – At an informal housing market on Havana’s historic Paseo del Prado, Renaldo Belen puts the hard sell on a prospective buyer under a tree hung with hand-lettered signs advertising homes for sale.
A house near Boyeros, the avenue to the city’s airport, is being offered for the equivalent of $120,000, with all the amenities.
“The house is beautiful; it has four bedrooms, a pool with a bar and a fountain with a lion’s head on top. Look,” says Belen, pointing to photos on the sign, “water comes out of the lion’s mouth.”
Pausing for dramatic effect, Belen, one of the many touts, or “runners” working at the market, delivers what he hopes will be the coup de grace.
“This place needs no work. It is of capitalist construction,” he says, using a now frequently invoked commendation meaning it was built before Cuba’s 1959 revolution and is therefore of superior quality.
Given that “capitalist” has been a dirty word in communist-run Cuba for the last half century, the description perhaps grates on the nerves of Cuban leaders.
But its widespread usage is a sign of the times on the Caribbean island, where President Raul Castro has loosened things up as he tries to modernize the country’s economy in the name of preserving the socialist system put in place by his older brother Fidel Castro.
HOME SALES REPLACE SWAPPING
In November 2011, the government decreed that Cubans could buy and sell homes for the first time since the early days of the revolution, paving the way for a real estate market that has become an exercise in bare-knuckled capitalism. Previously, Cubans could only do swaps – or “permutas,” in Spanish – with their houses.
“For Sale” signs are now a common sight on homes and apartments across the country, more than 100,000 properties are posted for sale on Internet sites and even state television has gotten in on the act, devoting part of a daily show to sales announcements sent in by viewers.
The government last released figures on the market in September 2012 when it said 45,000 dwellings had changed hands in the first eight months of the year, partly through sales, but mostly through “donations.”
Cubans, accustomed to finding ways around heavy-handed government rules and regulations, say many sales are disguised as donations to avoid paying sales fees and taxes.
The new market, despite its apparent vibrancy, is still sorting itself out and still faces hurdles. The main one is that many people are trying to sell and few Cubans, who receive various social benefits but earn on average the equivalent of $19 a month, have the money to buy.
“With the new law, you can sell your house, but there’s no money, nobody to buy. There’s more being offered than there is demand,” said retired economist and math professor Raul Cruz, who has had his apartment in the Vedado district on the market for five months.
Havana was once considered an architectural jewel with an eclectic mix of colonial homes and modern Art Deco construction, but much of the city outside the touristy Old Havana district is in a dilapidated state after decades of neglect and corrosion from humidity and salty sea air.
A study by a Miami-based group found that asking prices range from the equivalent of $5,000 to $1 million, with a median price range between $25,000 and $40,000. Cuba has two currencies, the peso and the convertible peso, the latter of which is used in most housing transactions and is pegged one-to-one with the U.S. dollar.
What has developed is a two-tier market, the runners at Paseo del Prado say, with Cubans mostly buying small places for between $5,000 and $10,000 and foreigners with Cuban connections buying the more expensive properties.
Sixty-year-old graphic designer Pepin, who did not want to give his full name, has been trying for six months to sell his nearly century-old Vedado home, two stories and painted blue, for $130,000.
So far almost everyone taking a look has been a foreigner or a Cuban with family abroad providing the money, he said, and all have tried to bargain for a lower price.
“One Chinese man, for example, offered me 80,000, but I’m not desperate or anything. If they give me what I want, fine. If not, I’ll stay here,” he said, relaxing in a chair on his plant-enshrouded front porch.
By law, the market is open only to Cubans on the island or those living temporarily abroad. But foreigners, including Cubans living in the United States or other countries, are buying properties in the names of Cuban spouses, family members or friends.
Companies with offices abroad have sprung up to cater to foreign buyers, posting photographs and descriptions of properties across the country on the Internet. Attempts to speak with one of them, Point2Cuba, went unanswered.
The reasons foreigners buy are varied, said Emilio Morales, president of the Havana Consulting Group in Miami.
“I have heard of people who are buying homes and turning them into businesses,” he said. “Some are looking for an investment, others doing it for their family (in Cuba).”
The Cuban government has laid the groundwork for allowing foreigners to buy property on the island, but only in resort developments for which approval has been pending for years.
It could inject billions of dollars into the cash-strapped economy by opening the real estate market to all in a new foreign investment law, said Morales.
Information on pricing in the real estate market is sketchy, but the general sense among Cubans is that asking prices began high and have come down somewhat.
Most blame the drop on the supply and demand problems, while others point the finger at another Raul Castro reform – a newly liberalized migration law, which took effect on January 14 and makes it easier for Cubans to go abroad.
“Prices have dropped now because there’s a greater incentive after January 14 to sell and abandon the country. Which is to say that people hurry up and want to sell quickly,” said Roberto Perez, who is trying to sell his two-story home near the sea in Havana ‘s Playa district for $200,000.
The prices depend on the necessity of the seller. “Someone who has a visa (to go to another country) and has a house worth 60,000 may sell it for 30,000,” said Belen, the Paseo del Prado runner.
Selling is being driven by Cubans wanting to cash in on the sole major asset most of them have. One of the quirks of Cuban communism is that while most things are property of the state, the vast majority of the country’s 3.2 million homes are owned by the people living in them.
“This is one of the things that gave longevity to the Revolution. They have something that most people in Latin America don’t have and wish for,” said Miami lawyer Antonio Zamora, a Cuban American who visits the island frequently.
While some sellers want to sell so they can leave, many simply want the money so they can live better in Cuba. Most said they would use part of the money to buy a smaller house, then live off the rest or use it to open a business.
Need and the low economic standards on the island have created some incredible bargains for people accustomed to paying high housing prices in other countries.
One woman, who did not want to give her name or the location of her residence, said she had recently sold the six-bedroom penthouse with a sweeping sea view she shared with several family members for the equivalent of $130,000. The buyer was a European with a Cuban spouse.
“I know it’s going to be worth a lot more in 10 years but everybody in the family wanted the money now. When we were moving out, a man came running up and told me he would give me 50,000 more than whatever the sale price was, but we had already signed the contract,” she said with a sigh.
Zamora, the Miami lawyer, predicted that Cuba would one day be a big market for Cuban Americas retirees.
“This is going to be huge,” he said, noting that Cuba has low crime and health costs, as well as good airport connections to the United States and a well developed money transfer industry for remittances.
“$750 in social security in the U.S. is nothing here in Miami but it can go a long way in Cuba,” he said.
(Additional reporting by Nelson Acosta and Rosa Tania Valdes in Havana and David Adams in Miami; Editing by David Adams and Claudia Parsons)
Arranging “Permutas” in Havana’s Pre-2012 Informal Housing Market, on Paseo del Prado
Reuters/By Brian Ellsworth/Mon Mar 18, 2013
CARACAS (Reuters) – Venezuelan opposition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles on Monday vowed to end the OPEC nation’s shipments of subsidized oil to communist-run Cuba, slamming acting President Nicolas Maduro as a puppet of Havana.
Capriles has berated Maduro as a weak imitation of the late Hugo Chavez, whose death two weeks ago convulsed the country and triggered the April 14 vote. The opposition also accuses the government of failing to fight crime and control inflation. “The giveaways to other countries are going to end. Not another drop of oil will go toward financing the government of the Castros,” Capriles said, referring to Cuba’s present and past leaders, Raul and Fidel Castro.
“Nicolas is the candidate of Raul Castro; I’m the candidate of the Venezuelan people,” Capriles said during a speech to university students in the oil-rich state of Zulia.
The election marks the first test of the “Chavismo” movement’s ability to maintain the late leader’s radical socialism after his death, and it will be crucial for regional allies that depend on Caracas for financing and cheap fuel.
A victory for Capriles, 40, would likely give global oil companies greater access to the world’s largest crude reserves and offer investors more market-friendly policies after years of state-centered economics.
Maduro, a 50-year-old former bus driver seen as having the advantage in the vote, has vowed to continue Chavez’s economic model that included frequent nationalizations and heavy regulation of private enterprise alongside generous social welfare programs that underpinned his popularity.
The youthful Capriles, who lost to Chavez by 11 percentage points in 2012, faces a delicate balancing act to highlight the flaws of Chavez’s governance without appearing to be attacking the former president or seeking to tarnish his legacy. He has exchanged furious barbs with Maduro since launching his candidacy and renewed his criticisms from last year’s campaign over day-to-day problems such as unchecked crime, product shortages and high cost of living.
“Every day it’s harder to find food, and every day food is more expensive,” Capriles said. “This model is not viable.”
He said halting cheap oil sales to Cuba would free up resources to boost public employee salaries by 40 percent to make up for inflation that is one of the region’s highest.
Ties to Cuba are likely to remain a central part of the campaign. Capriles for months accused authorities of compromising the country’s sovereignty by letting Chavez govern for two months from a Havana hospital.
Venezuela provides close to 100,000 barrels per day of oil to Cuba in exchange for a host of services including doctors that staff free health clinics in slums and rural areas.
Supporters say it has helped expand access to health care, while critics call it a mere subsidy to the Castro government. Maduro’s frequent visits to the island during Chavez’s two-month convalescence there led opposition leaders to joke that he had picked up a Cuban accent.
The emotional outpouring of affection for Chavez following his March 5 death, along with ample use of government television broadcasts, has helped give Maduro a leg up in the race. Millions of bereaved supporters have lined up before Chavez’s remains to pay respects to a leader who was loved by many of the country’s poor but reviled by adversaries who called him a fledgling dictator.
Two recent opinion polls showed Capriles trailing Maduro. Respected local pollster Datanalisis gave Maduro 46.4 percent versus 34.3 percent for Capriles in a survey carried out before Chavez’s death.
He enraged Maduro by accusing him of repeatedly lying about the late president’s two-year battle with cancer, and of then cynically using his death as a campaign tool. He later apologized to Chavez’s family if his words had offended them.
Maduro last week described a plot by “far right” U.S. elements linked to two senior former members of the George W. Bush administration to kill Capriles. Both officials denied the charges.
(Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Cynthia Osterman)
Nicolas Maduro and Friend
Thursday Mar 7, 2013
By Marc Frank
HAVANA, March 7 (Reuters) – Cuba established on Thursday a state-run wholesale company to sell food products, industrial and other consumer goods to private companies and the state sector, a step aimed at meeting a key demand of local entrepreneurs.
The new company was just the latest indication that President Raul Castro plans to create a strong private sector in retail services and farming as part of a broader reform of the Soviet-styled economy.
Since taking over for his brother Fidel in 2008, he has been lifting some restrictions on civil liberties, such as travel and the sale and purchase of private property, as well as revamping the state-dominated economy into a more mixed and market friendly one.
More than 200,000 small businesses have opened since Cuba liberalized regulations on them in 2010 and the number of entrepreneurs and their employees was 370,000 at last count.
Cuentapropista: now with access to inputs at wholesale prices?
“This step is long overdue and promises to remove a serious disadvantage faced by small entrepreneurs,” said Phil Peters, a Cuba expert at the Virginia-based Lexington Institute who has closely followed the reforms.
“It is the latest sign that the government wants the private sector to grow and needs it to create jobs for its reform program to succeed,” he added.
At the close of 2012 there were 1,736 private restaurants, 5,000 bed and breakfasts, and thousands of cafeterias, pizzerias and snack shops, according to the government.
Business owners have long complained that they must purchase supplies at state retail shops, while their state competitors purchase at more competitive wholesale prices, a problem authorities have repeatedly promised to remedy.
Thursday’s official Gaceta published an internal trade ministry resolution bringing together a number of companies into a new state holding company, the “Food, Industrial and Other Consumer Goods Trading Company.”
The resolution, which when published became law, stated the company would attend to both the state and “non-state” sectors.
State-run companies control all foreign and wholesale trade in Cuba and have been prohibited from selling to the private sector.
It was not clear how long it would take to set up the new company.
On Tulipan Street in the New Vedado district of Havana, a busy area with many private food vendors, no one knew about the new company, but all agreed it would be welcome.
“This is what we have been waiting for and its good they are finally doing something,” said Ofelia Rodriguez, 45, who sells pastries.
“I guarantee you, that if the prices are reasonable I can lower those I put on my products,” she said.
One woman selling soda, sandwiches and snacks nearby, said she would pass judgment once the company was in operation.
“For me, the issue isn’t if they open a wholesale outlet, but what they are going to sell and at what price,” said Eneida, 50, asking that her last name not be published.
“We have to wait and see if this is to help us meet our needs or pick our pockets of the little we make.” (Editing by Jackie Frank)
The Author: Sarah Stephens of the Center for Democracy in the Americas has just published a study on gender equity in Cuba.
The complete report is available for download CDA_Womens_Work The first part of the Executive Summary is presented below.
While this is an interesting study, the author seems to studiously avoid even the mention of some of the most courageous women in Cuba who are already having an influence on public policy and will likely play a more important role in building Cuba’s future than any of the women cited or interviewed for the study. I am referring of course to the independent journalists, pro-democracy activists, and those who dare to speak up in support of the genuine respect for the basic human rights that Cuba has signed on to in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
How could an organization labelled the Center for Democracy in the Americas not have spoken to individuals such as Yoani Sanchez, Miriam Celaya, the Ladies in White, or Miriam Leiva?
The immigration reform law would not likely have been passed at this time were it not for the unrelenting pressure of Yoani Sanchez and the international publicity this engendered and the shame the travel restrictions brought on the Cuban government.
“Women’s Work: Gender Equality in Cuba and the Role of Women Building Cuba’s Future,” a report by the Center for Democracy in the Americas, examines progress made by Cuban women toward gender equality since the 1950s and discusses how that progress can be sustained in the future.
Cuba is highly ranked by international organizations from Save the Children to the World Economic Forum for the health and well being of its mothers and children; the literacy and educational attainment of its population; and for meeting or progressing toward the Millennium Development Goals.
These accomplishments are met with skepticism even disbelief by some in the U.S., because Cuba has a tiny economy, it is not capitalist or rich and, by U.S. standards, it is not free. Yet, the numbers speak for themselves.
But, the data also demonstrate, and many Cuban women agree, that measured against key objectives of gender equality – do women have access to higher-paying jobs; can they achieve a fair division of labor at work and home; are they acceding to positions of real power in the communist party or government– Cuba has a long way to go.
Now, as Cuba faces an economic crisis driven by fiscal, competitive, and demographic pressures, the government is trying to update its economic model. But, several actions – such as cutting budgets and controlling costs in its public health and education systems, and shrinking state employment rolls and moving workers into private sector jobs – could put Cuba’s gender equality achievements at considerable risk. Many Cuban women are reluctant to make the transition from the state jobs where they found work and received benefits to private sector employment, because they lack training, job security and benefits, and access to capital.
With ample global evidence that broadening rather than constraining participation by women increases economic growth, social wellbeing, and family formation, Cuba can improve its prospects for addressing the crisis by preserving, and indeed, expanding its commitment to gender equality. Cuban women also want to expand their roles, their power, and their ability to participate in the building of Cuba’s future.
CDA believes it would serve the national and humanitarian interests of the U.S. to help Cuban women achieve greater economic success as their nation undergoes a stressful adjustment to a new economic model, and the report offers recommendations for doing so.
Wed Mar 6, 2013
By Marc Frank
HAVANA, March 5 (Reuters) – A mix of sorrow, self-interest and dread took hold of Cuba Tuesday evening as word spread like wildfire that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who had done so much for the country, was dead.
While the official evening newscast devoted its entire program to events unfolding in Caracas, the government reaction was slow in coming.
Later in the evening Cuba declared three days of mourning, and eulogized Chavez saying his “Bolivarian Revolution” was “irreversible” and that Cuba would continue to “accompany Venezuelans in their struggles.”
Chavez’s resolute ideological embrace of Cuba helped propel the once isolated communist island back into the center of regional politics, and oil-rich Venezuela’s largesse under Chavez proved a life saver for the embargoed and near bankrupt Caribbean island after the collapse of its longtime benefactor, the Soviet Union.
Even so, analysts do not expect Chavez’s death to have any short-term impact for Cuba.
“I’m sure the Cubans are concerned, but I don’t think this will be a game changer for the Cubans. They have weathered worse storms before,” said Frank Mora, former deputy assistant secretary of defense for Western Hemisphere Affairs in the first Obama administration.
Chavez is viewed in Cuba as an irreplaceable leader of the region and savior of socialism, portrayed day and night by official media as a champion of regional unity, independence and the island.
During his two-year battle with cancer, Chavez had four operations in Cuba and spent months receiving treatment on the island.
“Once again the horizon for all of Latin America has grown dark,” Havana snack vendor, Eric Rodriguez, said.
“I only hope Venezuela can support this blow, but the road ahead for them won’t be easy, nor for Cuba,” he said.
There were tears for the 58-year-old Venezuelan and his family over the tragedy of succumbing to cancer. Then there were the calculations over what events in Caracas might mean for daily life on the Communist-run island, so dependent on the preferential trade relations under Chavez.
There was dread that Cuba would once more lose a strategic ally and be plunged back into a grave economic crisis similar to the scarcity in the 1990s that followed the demise of the Soviet Union.
Soon after Chavez won his first election in 1998, Fidel Castro anointed the young and vitriolic firebrand as his revolutionary successor in Latin America.
President Raul Castro, who replaced his ailing brother in 2008, has strengthened relations with Venezuela even as he forged closer ties with other oil-producing nations such as Brazil, Angola, Algeria and Russia.
Most Cuban economists point out that the economy has become more diversified over the last 20 years with the development of tourism, pharmaceuticals and increased oil and nickel production. But they say it remains far too dependent on Venezuela.
Cuba and Venezuela have formed more than 30 joint ventures over the years, most of them based in Venezuela.
They range from a fishing fleet, to port and rail repair, to hotels, agriculture, nickel and steel production and just about all of Cuba’s downstream oil industry.
In 2011, Venezuela accounted for $8.3 billion of Cuba’s $20 billion in foreign trade. It pays Cuba an estimated $6 billion or more annually for the services of 40,000 doctors, nurses and other professionals, local economists say. That is around 60 percent of the foreign exchange Cuba earned from services.
Venezuelan banks provide soft credits for dozens of development projects across the island.
Venezuela serves as a guarantor for investment and trade with the island.
While many Cubans fretted, others were more optimistic that Chavez’s hand-picked successor, Vice President Nicolas Maduro, would win the election that must now take place within 30 days.
UNCERTAINTY AND REFORM
Cuba is in the process of lifting some restrictions on civil liberties and revamping the state-dominated economy into a more mixed and market friendly one.
Experts said that regardless of the election’s outcome the pace and depth of reform would most likely pick up.
An opposition victory, viewed as unlikely, would certainly force Havana to scamper, they said, and while a Maduro win would spell no changes for Cuba in the short term, the threat of instability in Venezuela’s future would loom large on local leaders’ minds.
“Assuming that Maduro is elected, Venezuela will continue its critical oil subsidies, but both international credit markets and the Cuban leadership can now more clearly see a future where Cuba will have to bolster its energy self-sufficiency and improve its credit ratings,” said Carlos Saladrigas, head of the Cuba Study Group, a Cuban American business organization that advocates engagement with Havana.
“The pro-reform factions within the Cuban system will have additional arguments in their quiver for moving forward with all deliberate speed,” he said.
Mora agreed that mid-term instability in Venezuela would be Cuba’s biggest challenge.
“I think everyone will try and unite behind Maduro. It’s what becomes of Venezuela after, and whether Maduro can keep all the disparate factions within Chavismo together for a long period of time, especially if the Venezuelan economy runs into macro-economic troubles and it’s not able to continue subsidizing political support (for Cuba),” he said.
(Reporting by Marc Frank; Additional reporting by David Adams.; Editing by David Adams and Lisa Shumaker)
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez speaks next to Vice President Nicolas Maduro (right) and National assembly president Diosdado Cabello (left) during a national broadcast at Miraflores Palace in Caracas on December 8, 2012. © 2012 Reuters
By Juan O. Tamayo
Original Here: Miami Herald, February 24, 2013 Cuba under Raúl
As Cuban ruler Raúl Castro marks his fifth official year in power on Sunday, some Cubans might well be asking, like the U.S. advertising campaign, “Got Milk?”
In his first major speech after succeeding ailing brother Fidel, Castro declared that the government’s highly centralized and inept system for collecting and distributing milk was “absurd” and vowed to fix it.
Today, some towns are indeed getting not just more milk but also butter and cheese, yet others are no better off — mirroring the sharply contrasting assessments of the economic reforms Castro launched to dig the island out of its communism-induced quagmire.
Some Cubans say the newly allowed private economic activity already has made daily life a bit easier for most of the island’s 11.2 million people, with more sellers offering more goods and more buyers finding more of the goods they seek.
“Look, I see a lot of people smiling because there are more ways to make a living and I have more pork to sell,” said Mori, the nickname of a salesman in a Havana butchers’ kiosk. “And people are buying, even though the prices are high.”
“You can’t say that Raúl’s Cuba is the same as Fidel’s Cuba. You just have to go on the streets to see that,” said dissident Havana economist Oscar Espinosa Chepe.
“I am surprised at how fast Raúl has moved, in the context of the previous half-century” added Archibald Ritter, an economist at Carleton University in Ottawa who runs the blog The Cuban Economy.
But Espinosa Chepe, Ritter and other knowledgeable Cuba-watchers say the reforms have been far too slow and too meek to reverse nearly half a century of brutally incompetent central government and its controls, Soviet Union-style, over virtually the entire economy.
Castro’s main reforms are “positive and well-oriented” and have accelerated in the past six months but remain “insufficient to solve the socio-economic problems accumulated in 50 years of centralized socialism … due to obstacles and disincentives,” said Carmelo Mesa-Lago, the dean of Cuba economists and author of the Spanish-language book Cuba en la Era de Raúl Castro.
The list of reform initiatives launched since Castro officially succeeded Fidel on Feb. 24, 2008, is long and impressive and points to a strategy of allowing more capitalism but not democracy that looks like the China model —- though Havana insists it’s on its own path.
He has legalized non-agricultural cooperatives, allowed more private businesses and farming, offered them loans and permitted them to hire non-family employees. He has cut the bloated state payrolls, legalized the sale of homes and cars and allowed Cubans to stay in previously tourist-only hotels.
Most importantly, Cubans say, the removal of the much-hated “exit permit” last month for those who want to travel abroad has eased the sense of isolation and entrenchment that prevailed during Fidel Castro’s hardliner search for a socialist utopia.
But Raúl Castro has repeatedly said he’s proceeding apace to “update” the economy — never “reform” it — and his No. 2, José Ramón Machado Ventura, has dismissed those “who demand faster advances, naively thinking they will lead to capitalism.”
As a result, Cuba today teeters somewhere between the promise and realities of the reforms, between his on-the-mark diagnoses of what ails the country and a shortage of the appropriately strong medicine.
Castro has thrown the doors open to more private enterprise but still limits licenses to 181 strictly defined jobs — among them, party clown — slapped steep taxes on them and vowed that central planning will remain the guiding force of the economy.
The decree allowing non-agricultural cooperatives — state-owned restaurants can become employee coops, for instance — is positive, said Ritter. But it requires the coops to accept as full members all employees of more than 90 days, such as a receptionist.
In one of the most critical reforms, Castro decreed in 2008 that nearly five million acres of idle state farmlands would be leased to private farmers to increase agricultural production and cut a food import bill estimated at $1.5 billion a year.
But only 3.7 million acres had been handed out at the end of 2012 and the government retained Acopio, the notoriously bumbling state system for gathering and distributing farm products. That’s what Castro attacked in that first major speech, in 2007, when he detailed the incompetent system for producing, processing and distributing milk.
It also took the government four years to reverse a section in the decree that banned the new farmers from building homes on the land — in effect forcing them to commute and leave their farm animals and machinery exposed to thieves every night.
Perhaps that’s why domestic food production dropped in 2011 to pre-2007 levels, and dropped again in 2012, with pork, a staple of the Cuban diet, down by 18.3 percent. Agricultural food prices spiked by about 20 percent while salaries barely ticked up, and food imports remained stable.
Cuban officials also announced 500,000 state employees would be dismissed by April 2011, and 800,000 more would follow by the end of that year in order to slash government spending. Yet by the end of 2012 the total layoffs reportedly stood at only 365,000.
Castro ordered an all-out attack on corruption, and put his son, Alejandro, in charge of the campaign. Yet bribery appears to be booming in the dark spaces between socialist and capitalist economic activities, and reports of fresh scandals filter out almost every week.
He has repeatedly called for a younger leadership and promoted Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, 54, to the Politburo of the Communist Party and Higher Education Minister Miguel Diaz-Canel, about 52, to vice president of the Council of Ministers.
But Cuba’s leadership remains ancient. Castro is 81, Machado Ventura is 82 and Ramiro Valdes, another vice president of the Council of Ministers and sometimes considered No. 3, is 80. Overall, 10 of the 15 politburo members are in their 70s and 80s.
He has demanded that all state-owned enterprises improve their management and threatened to shutter those that do not turn a profit. Yet the General Comptroller’s report for 2012 said 34 percent of the 234 estate entities audited fell short of their goals.
Ritter noted that industrial output in 2011 stood at a shocking 47 percent of the levels in 1989, when post-communist Moscow halted its subsidies to Havana and the island plunged into economic ruin. The purchasing power of salaries in 2010 was 30 percent lower than in 1989, according to Espinosa Chepe.
Castro’s reforms “are useful and positive and I would applaud them, but in terms of reversing the situation in industry they are not going to go too far,” said Ritter. “The industrial sector is a disaster. Cuba is de-industrializing.”
Castro also improved daily life by halting the massive political marches and rallies that brother Fidel so loved, Espinosa Chepe added, and diversifying the programs on the state television monopoly — “though they remain boring and with a heavy political bias.”
But virtually every young Cuban still has “a plan or an illusion” to escape the island, said Michel Matos, executive director of the Rotilla Festival, a privately organized music fest held annually from 1998 until the government banned it in 2011.
Some Cubans paint a dark picture of their future, with more poverty, especially among retirees whose benefits seldom rise above $15 a month. The gap between haves and have-nots has risen as the government has cut back spending on public health and education. Crime and prices continue to rise.
A woman who visits Havana often said a well-off and pro-Castro friend there recently told her that “there is a tension you feel all the time, like it’s going to explode. We don’t know where we’re going.” The woman asked for anonymity to speak frankly.
The specter of Fidel
Castro’s half-measures and stop-and-go reforms have sparked speculation on exactly who or what is standing in his way. The “who” is presumed to be the 86-year-old Fidel, always a sworn enemy of capitalism.
“In general I believe that we have a duty to update and improve it [Cuba’s Soviet-style economic model], but this is a stage where it is essential that we march very carefully. We should not make mistakes,” Fidel said earlier this month when asked about the reforms.
Arturo Lopez-Levy, a former government analyst on intelligence issues and Cuba-U.S. relations now at the University of Denver, said Raúl Castro is “losing time” with the slow pace of reforms “not because of indolence but because there is no agreed-upon vision of the system toward which Cuba is moving.”
The “what” is widely believed to be an entrenched bureaucracy that fears the reforms will take away its benefits and perquisites. Jorge Dominguez, a Harvard University expert on Cuba, has described what Castro now faces as a tough “bureaucratic insurgency.”
Impediment to talks
As for U.S. relations, Castro has repeatedly offered talks with the Obama administration, yet held on to the one clear impediment to improved relations: U.S. government subcontractor Alan Gross, serving a 15-year sentence in Havana for giving sophisticated communications equipment to Cuban Jews in violation of Cuban laws.
“The government needs a less confrontational scenario in bilateral relations, but its survival is not dependent on a deal with the U.S.,” said Lopez-Levy. “The optimum scenario for [Castro] is not a sudden lifting of the embargo but a piecemeal dismantling.”
And on the human rights front, Castro freed 52 political prisoners jailed since a 2003 crackdown on dissent but at the same time stepped up repression, with a record 6,200 short-term detentions for political motives reported last year alone.
One bit of certainty
Castro is certain to be elected to a second five-year term as president of the Councils of Ministers and State when the parliamentary National Assembly of People’s Power opens its new session on Sunday. But the country’s future is less certain.
Lopez-Levy said he believes that during his first five years in power Castro carefully laid the institutional foundation for a more mixed state-private economy and a state withdrawal from daily life.
But Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, whose subsidies to Cuba are pegged at more than $6 billion a year — higher than the aid that Moscow once provided — has cancer and it’s not clear whether a successor would keep the same level of aid.
Havana blogger Yoani Sánchez wrote last month that given Cuba’s myriad and profound problems, it’s difficult for her to believe that the system can “survive the new year, never mind guarantee its long-term viability.”
“But it merits mentioning that the Havana regime has been showing its ability to overcome, including even the most unfavorable predictions, for a long time,” she added. “After all, the Cuban economy has been in a permanent state of crisis for 20 years.”
“It will be much more likely to see our frustrations in the lines outside embassies [in Havana] waiting for a visa,” Sánchez noted, “than in any mass protests.”
By Arch Ritter
Great! Canadian tourists will once again fly on Tupelov and Ilyushin aircraft on their low-cost snow-bird visits to Cuba – just like in the 1970s to 1990s. I remember one partially half-empty flight in the early 90s when the stewards requested in mid-flight that half the passengers move to the back part of the plane to balance the load, somewhat like I often do in my 14-foot boat.
Cuba looks like the big winner in the debt-write-off and aircraft leasing agreement with Russia reached yesterday, February 21, 2013. But Russia gets a small reprieve for its civilian aircraft sector.
Over and above the massive hidden subsidization provided to Cuba back in the golden age of Soviet-Cuban relations, (amounting to 15 – 30 % of Cuba’s quasi-GDP depending on the year in the 1980s), Cuba also built up a debt to the Soviet Union that amounted to around $28 billion as on 1989. It looked as if this debt would never be repaid and that Russia had given up all hope of repayment.
The debt write-off deal lets Cuba off the hook, at least in part. Cuba can now claim that it is a responsible economic partner and participant in the international economic system. This should facilitate access to new foreign credit and thus be of some benefit. Cubana also acquires Russian aircraft, presumably at a reasonable price relative to those of the leasers of European, Brazilian and Canadian aircraft, even if of unproven quality and competitiveness. This all looks good for Cuba.
What does Russia get out of the deal? A market for its aircraft. While its military aircraft industry appears to be highly competitive internationally, the civilian aircraft sector has almost disappeared in the face of Boeing, European Airbus, Embraer of Brazil and Bombardier of Canada – and with Chinese aircraft starting to make an appearance. This deal provides a market – albeit a small one– for Russia’s civilian aircraft. Perhaps the Cuban market provides a loss-leader for Russian civilian aircraft into international markets.
Cubana’s New Aircraft, the Ilyushin 94-400 and Tupelov 204SM
The above chart, based on the work of Leogrande and Thomas illustrates the magnitudes of Soviet assistance to Cuba including trade credits.
William Leogrande, and J. M. Thomas illustrates the magnitudes of the assistance. My own quantitative estimates placed the value of this subsidization at around 23% to over 36% of National Income in the 1980 to 1987 period.
Presidents Medvedev and Castro, February 21, 2013
From Pravda, Feb 22, 2013: Cuban Debt to USSR Write-Off
Russia and Cuba have initialed an agreement to settle Cuba’s debt to Russia on the loans that Cuba took from the Soviet Union. In addition, representatives of the two countries signed two agreements on the deliveries of Russian aircraft to Cuba in the amount of $650 million.
The initialed agreement “sets the general direction for further work”, a high-ranking source in the Russian delegation told Itar-Tass. The agreement was signed by Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov and Deputy Chairman of the Council of Ministers, Ricardo Cabrisas.
“This document is like a declaration of political will, and it sets off extensive work, which will consist of three stages,” said the official.
“The document goes through internal procedures and coordination. Afterwards, there will be another agreement signed – the new one will contain all specifications of all the technical details, and then it will have to be ratified,” he explained. According to the official, it is a very substantial amount of debt – $35 billion.
The final agreement on writing off the debts of Cuba will be prepared within six months, Minister for Industry and Trade, Denis Manturov, told reporters after the Russian-Cuban talks.
The minister assured that it will happen “before the end of the year for sure.” “I think that the term that we have agreed on – six months – will be enough to finalize the formalities,” he added.
The total volume of two agreements about the supplies of Russian planes to Cuba is $650 million, the head of the Russian Ministry of Industry said. “In total, the amount for the supply of aircraft is 650 million dollars, – he said. – This includes two agreements for three Antonov aircraft (AN-158), three Ilyushin (IL-96-400) and two Tupolev airplanes (Tu-204SM).”
Following the talks, an option agreement was signed for the supply of three An-158 airplanes. Manturov explained that these would be delivered to Cuba in addition to those that Cuba would receive this year.
Under the second agreement, Cuba will receive three Il-96-400 planes. The planes will be redesigned from the cargo to the passenger version. In addition, Cuba will receive two Tu-204SM airplanes when tests and certification procedures are complete.
In addition, the agreements, according to Manturov, stipulate for the delivery of complete sets of spare parts to maintain the operation of the aircraft, which Cuba uses already. Manturov added that all aircraft would be delivered as part of financial leasing procedures.
The Russian delegation, led by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, arrived on a work visit to Cuba from Brazil, where the head of the Russian government held talks with the leadership of the republic and took part in the meeting of the bilateral high-level commission on cooperation.
Following the results of Medvedev’s official meetings in Cuba, a number of bilateral documents is expected to be signed. On Friday, the Prime Minister will visit the 22nd Havana International Book Fair, which takes place in the Cuban capital every year.
The current fair is dedicated to the 160th anniversary of the birth of Cuban revolutionary Jose Marti. Medvedev will lay flowers to his monument as part of the traditional protocol ceremony.
The flight to Cuba marked the middle of Medvedev’s Latin American tour. The prime minister crossed seven time zones on the way from Moscow to Brasilia, making a technical refueling stop in Cape Verde. As a result, Medvedev spent more than 14 hours in the air. The trip to Cuba added two time zones to this route and a seven-hour flight.
Due to the nine-hour time difference between Havana and Moscow, even morning events in Medvedev’s Cuban work schedule fall for the evening time in Moscow.