|“Economists say the reform spells short-term pain for Cubans but is important in the long-term as varying exchange rates have effectively subsidized some sectors and distorted the way economy works. [They] expect triple-digit inflation, and government announcements in recent months suggest it does too. It has said the [new single exchange rate] will be accompanied by a five-fold increase in average state wages and pensions even as many state-controlled prices are increased or allowed to respond to demand. But the wage increase does not apply to around two million of the seven million-plus labor force in the private sector, informal sector or who simply do not work. (Reuters, December 10, 2020)
Carmelo Mesa Largo: “The immediate impact will be that inflation will be unleashed and the purchasing power of the population will drop in parallel.” Mesa Lago says that an exchange rate set at 24 pesos per dollar implies a 2,400% devaluation [for state-run businesses]…’it would be extremely difficult for the government to increase salaries by 2,400 percent in 2021 if the exchange rate is set at 24 pesos per dollar. The government will raise salaries, but by much less than that, like it did between 1989 and 2019, the salaries as well as the pensions will cover even less of the basic necessities,’ he added.” (Miami Herald, December 1, 2020)
“Mesa-Lago said he believes the official figures underestimate the real level of inflation, reflected in the increasingly longer lines of people waiting to buy basic products, the empty shelves and the rising prices. ‘The prices in the open market, where the law of offer and demand rules, have soared in recent months. For example, a carton of 30 eggs cannot be found in state stores” except once per month with a ration card, Mesa-Lago said. ‘In the free market, you could find it years ago for 87 pesos. Now they cost 175 pesos. That means the price has doubled, and that’s happened with other food prices” (Miami Herald, December 1, 2020)
One solution to this dire scenario would be to expand the private sector and micro-enterprises, Mesa-Lago said. The number of employed rose by 102,520 in 2019, with 89 percent of them in the private sector. The government then [announced the elimination of] the list of allowed self-employed jobs in August, and in November, [Reuters] reported that thousands of small government-owned enterprises would be shifted to the private sector. ‘This is something that is positive, if it’s done quickly and without roadblocks,’ Mesa-Lago said. It is expected that with the change in the current exchange rate, many state enterprises will go bankrupt. The government, which already has failed to make some payments on its foreign debt, will allow some of these inefficient enterprises to disappear, officials have said. Economists said part of those enterprises’ employees might shift to the private sector.” (Miami Herald, December 1, 2020)
Mauricio de Miranda Parrondo: “The official exchange rate adopted by the government is, in the face of market conditions, an overvalued exchange rate and an error from the onset. An overvalued exchange rate means that the national currency is worth more than it should be and that affects the competitiveness of exports and makes imports cheaper, so this won’t solve the problems that led to the adoption of the measure of devaluation that, incidentally, should have been adopted many years ago. It is very difficult to determine what the appropriate level of the exchange rate should be, but economic theory suggests that it should be around the equilibrium conditions that allow establishing the relative prices that connect the national economy with the international economy. But the Cuban economy has many price distortions, due to the maintenance for a long time of a totally unreal official exchange rate, also due to the segmentation of the markets and consequently, due to the disconnection of the national economy with the international one. In the absence of this, it would have been advisable to adopt an exchange rate that was close to current market conditions, as happened when the CADECAs were created, after overcoming the very serious devaluation of the peso on the black market when the US dollar It came to be worth between 120 and 130 Cuban pesos in the early 1990s.
“With the current shortage of foreign exchange, and with the impossibility, on the part of the State, of offering US dollars at 24 Cuban pesos, the logical thing is that a parallel market appears in which the dollar is quoted at a higher value, and we continue in the same boat. Dollars will be channeled into the informal market rather than into the formal market channels. Under these conditions, a considerable differential between the official exchange rate and the black market exchange rate can be created, which will benefit the operators of the latter and will create new distortions.” (Mauricio de Miranda Parrondo blog, December 10, 2020)
Prices in private sector to be fixed?: Among multiple price controls expected in attempt to stave off inflation, perhaps the most worrisome according to economist Pedro Monreal is Sunday’s announcement that prices in private sector activity will not be allowed to increase more than threefold regardless of market needs.