Tag Archives: Book Review

IS CUBA “OPEN FOR BUSINESS”? BOOK REVIEW BY TED HENKEN

ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZBy Ted Henken. Complete review is available here: http://cubacounterpoints.com/archives/3832

A review of Open for Business: Building The New Cuban Economy by Richard E. Feinberg,  August 30, 2016, Washington, D.C.Brookings Institution Press, 264 pages, $22.00;    ISBN-10: 0815727674’;     ISBN-13: 978-0815727675

Introduction

A few years ago I ran into a fellow watcher of Cuba’s economy in my favorite local New York coffee shop. It was just after the publication of my own recent book on the emergent Cuban private sector, which I co-wrote with the Canadian economist Archibald Ritter. Keen on announcing my good fortune (and great timing!) to my colleague, I whipped the book out and proudly presented it to her. However, when she saw the title, Entrepreneurial Cuba, she looked up at me with a skeptical grin and said: “Well, aren’t you the optimistic one?!” I laughed, quickly assuring her that while the title was indeed up-beat, the contents of the book were a decidedly more complex, critical, and ambivalent affair, filled with equal parts new opportunities, old obstacles, significant reforms, and frightful omens.

Similarly, the title of Richard Feinberg’s own eminently readable and richly informative new book, Open for Business: Building the New Cuban Economy, slyly posits a reality of economic “openness” that is aspirational. The author himself admits that this position is still as much a government slogan for the future as it is an achieved present-day reality. While Feinberg tells his readers that Cuba is indeed “open for business” on the book’s eye-catching cover, the actual contents of the book’s wide-ranging eight chapters highlight aspects of Cuba’s new post-Fidel economy that place an emphatic and well deserved question mark (?) after this claim.

Far from falling prey to the “irrational exuberance” of facile boosterism or blatant apologetics that tend to characterize much business-oriented writing about Cuba these days, Feinberg’s book is a critical-minded and deeply informed evaluation of the pro-market experiments undertaken by the Cuban government over the past two decades with a special emphasis on Raúl Castro’s economic reforms between 2010-2016. Thankfully, Feinberg goes beyond an exclusive focus on the top-down administrative efforts on the part of the government to solve its chronic economic problems (chapter 2). Feinberg does consider the so-called “update” of Cuba’s state socialist economic model that is often in league with sympathetic foreign governments like China, Brazil, and Venezuela (Chapter 3) and pioneering foreign firms including Sherritt, Meliá, and Unilever (chapters 4-5).

Notably, chapter 6 on entrepreneurial Cuba tells the fascinating story of Cuba’s emerging private entrepreneurs and middle classes. According to Feinberg, now this new economic class includes as many as two million people and makes up 40% of the island’s workforce (a well-sourced if questionable claim). This is followed by a wonderfully original chapter that profiles a dozen Cuban “millennial voices”; youthful, and quite hopeful, pioneers in fields as diverse as business, art, media, academics, and technology. These innovative sections of the book allow the author to offer his readers a refreshingly rich and diverse portrait of the grass-roots efforts of everyday citizens to “open Cuba for business” from the inside and for the benefit of Cubans themselves.

 ********************

Conclusion

Not a typical academic monograph focused on a single aspect of the Cuban economy, Feinberg’s “Open for Business” is instead a globally-informed analysis of what are arguably the three most important and dynamic aspects of Cuba’s new economy: International trade, foreign investment, and the island’s emerging domestic entrepreneurs. His wide-ranging yet richly detailed focus – enhanced by multiple foreign investor case studies and vivid profiles of Cuba’s emerging entrepreneurs and pioneering millennials – makes this book required reading not just for professional economists and other academics, but also – and perhaps especially – for the growing ranks of potential foreign investors looking for independent, hard-nosed, and practical advice about Cuba’s unique business environment as they contemplate their own entreé into the Cuban market. It will also be useful and revelatory tool for U.S. policymakers as they gauge how best to “engage” the Cuban government over questions of trade and investment and “empower” the Cuban people, especially the emerging Cuban entrepreneurial middle classes.

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TO BE A WRITER IN CUBA

Yvon Grenier

Literal: Latin American Voices, April 2016

 Original Article: To be a writer in Cuba

Y wwwww wwwwwwThe methodology of Leonardo Padura

Soy un escritor, en lo fundamental, de la vida cubana, y la política no puede estar fuera de esa vida, pues es parte diaria, activa, penetrante de ella; pero yo la manejo de manera que sea el lector quien decida hacer las asociaciones políticas, sin que mis libros se refieran directamente a ella. De verdad, no la necesito ni me interesa, pero, en cambio, me interesa muchísimo que mis libros puedan ser leídos en Cuba y que la gente pueda dialogar con ellos.

 Leonardo Padura Cubaencuentro, 19 December 2008

“People think that what I say is a measure of what can or can’t be said in Cuba,” Leonardo Padura once stated in an interview with Jon Lee Anderson.  In fact, what he says is a measure of what he—along with some other Cuban writers or artists—is allowed to say in Cuba. It is a privilege, not a right.  Lesser authors who don’t enjoy his international fame (and Spanish passport) probably couldn’t have published a book like El hombre que amaba los perros, as he did in 2010, a year after it was edited in Spain by Tusquets. In fact, the book probably wouldn’t have appeared at all in Cuba decades or even years ago, which makes him the beneficiary (and the confirmation) of a recent openness. The government grants Padura some recognition (he won the National Literature Prize in 2012), as well as some privileges commonly bestowed on successful writers and artists: he can travel and publish abroad, and he can accept monetary compensation in foreign currency. But he is kept in a box. His books are nearly impossible to find on the island. The prestigious awards and accolades he is receiving abroad are mostly glossed over by the Cuban media. Finally, his insightful but politically cautious journalism is read all over the world, but not in Cuba (save for a few exceptions).

Numerous times Padura has made clear his desire to live in the house his father built in Mantilla, a working class municipality on the outskirts of Havana. He sometimes signs his articles, “Leonardo Padura, Still in Mantilla.” He also wants to be a “Cuban writer,” and as such, he feels he has “a certain responsibility because our reality is so specific and so hard for many people.” A genuine writer cannot be a mouthpiece for the government. Padura’s success in conciliating these two potentially conflicting ambitions—to be a writer who lives and work in Cuba—is, as John Lee Anderson put it, “a tribute both to his literary achievement and his political agility.” Blogger Yoani Sánchez wrote, “His ‘rarity’ lies fundamentally in having been able to sustain a critical vision of his country, an unvarnished description of the national sphere, without sacrificing the ability to be recognized by the official sectors. The praise comes to him from every direction of the polarized ideological spectrum of the Island, which is a true miracle of letters and of words.” This is why Padura is often seen as a sort of experiment on how to express freedom in a land bereft of freedom of expression.

Conclusion

Rather than pushing for more room for expression, Padura’s method seems to be to occupy all the space available without crossing any red lines. This has allowed him to elude the fate that befell so many writers in Cuba. His criticism of many aspects of Cuban society is achieved without directly addressing the political system in Cuba. This method works, in the sense that it provides him with basic guidelines to practice his métier in Cuba. Padura is not an exponent of the “art for art’s sake” viewpoint. He wants to talk about the “reality” in Cuba, but without acting like an activist for change. He cultivates a “practice of social and human introspection that occasionally reaches politics, but that does not part from there..” But one wonders, what happens when it comes to politics, “cuando llega a la política”? The answer is: not much, because he can’t go there and continue living and working in Mantilla. Living and working in Cuba is most valuable not only for him, but also for his readers. In one of his essays entitled “I would like to be Paul Auster,” he complains that he would love not to be constantly asked about politics in his country and how and why he continues to live there. But this is very much his niche: he is widely seen as the best writer in Cuba. He offers us an off-the-beaten path view of a relatively closed society, one that is free of propaganda if not entirely free tout court. No writer could attain global respectability producing a prose laden with official propaganda. By occupying a small but significant critical space in Cuba, Padura becomes more interesting for Cuba observers and more intriguing for students of cultural and literary trends on the island. In this sense, he may be compared to authors and artists who produce somewhat critical material under dictatorial regimes, like Ismael Kadaré (Albania-France) or Murong Xuecon (China) —he is closer, in fact, to the former than the latter.

In sum, Leonardo Padura found a sweet spot that has allowed him to navigate the tumultuous waters of censorship while searching for (and finding) his own voice. He has managed to become, as one observer wrote, “perhaps the foremost chronicler of the island.” Does he (and do his readers) pay too high a price for his privilege to write “from Mantilla”? Would he be more valuable to us, and a better writer, in exile?

Continue Reading: Yvon Grenier, TO BE A WRITER IN CUBA

Yvon Grenier teaches and writes on Comparative politics, Latin American politics (esp. Cuba, Mexico and Central America), Art /literature and politics, as well as political violence.He is also a Contributing Editor for Literal  as well as an occasional  political commentator for Radio Canada/CBC. His Twitter is @ygrenier1

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HOW THE AMERICAN LEFT FELL IN AND OUT OF LOVE WITH FIDEL CASTRO

By Carlos Lozada, Washington Post, November 25

Review of “FIGHTING OVER FIDEL: THE NEW YORK INTELLECTUALS AND THE CUBAN REVOLUTION” by Rafael Rojas,  Princeton University Press. 312 pp. $35.

Original here: Fighting Over Fidel
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One of the sharpest divides between political and intellectual life is that changing one’s mind is unforgivable in the former and inevitable in the latter. For politicians, consistency is prized; switching positions elicits the dread flip-flopping charge. Among intellectuals, by contrast, dalliances with competing ideologies over the years are an almost required rite before settling on a worldview — ideally one stronger for the journey — that underpins subsequent inquiry.

Historian Rafael Rojas has written an oddly captivating account of the Cuban revolution as a moment when these two worlds clashed, when a political revolt in one nation upended intellectual forces in another. Rather than focus on Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, John F. Kennedy or the other usual suspects of this Cold War era, Rojas tells the story of the left-wing academics, beat poets, Black Panthers and radical journalists in the United States, particularly in New York, who initially embraced Cuba’s transformations only to splinter over Castro’s repression of individual freedoms and the island’s move toward the Soviet orbit. “The complex relation between the New York left and Cuban socialism,” Rojas writes, “oscillated between a sense of the promise Cuba represented for leftist libertarianism and the sense of disenchantment that resulted from Havana’s alignment with Moscow.”

The initial optimism emerged from Castro’s early promises. When the New York Times interviewed him in 1957, in a dispatch from the Sierra Maestra mountains by Herbert L. Matthews, the young revolutionary declared that he held no animosity toward the United States, that his struggle was against dictatorship in his own country. In 1959, during his first U.S. trip, he pledged that elections would come quickly to Cuba, as soon as the revolution’s social transformations to end poverty and improve health and education were underway. “I advise you not to worry about communism in Cuba,” he declared. “When our goals are won, communism will be dead.”

Princeton University Press

At the time, American leftists were inclined to regard the revolution less as a Cold War battleground than as an upstart victory in the global conflict between rich capitalist nations — especially that great imperialist to the north — and colonial or postcolonial countries. So strong was this perspective that in his book “Listen, Yankee,” Columbia University sociologist C. Wright Mills (popularizer of the term “new left”) wrote that “the Cuban Government, as of mid-1960, is not ‘communist’ in any of the senses legitimately given to this Word. . . . The leading men of Cuba’s Government are not ‘Communist,’ or even Communist-type.” By the third printing of the book, Castro had pronounced the socialist character of the revolution and — after the failed Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961 — had lauded the scientific prowess of the Soviet Union, his soon-to-be patron. Waldo Frank, a social critic and historian of Latin America, found himself in a similar plight; his 1960 book “Cuba: Prophetic Island,” arguing that Cuban socialism could develop to be different and independent from the Soviet Union, proved anything but prophetic, as the revolutionary government began evolving into an oppressive one-party regime with a Marxist-Leninist cast.

Condemnation would arrive, though with caveats. In the left-wing journal Dissent, Daniel M. Friedenberg wrote critically of the Castro regime’s “xenophobia, hate campaigns, the retreat into phantasy fears, the dependence on communist support, the swollen Army, the rigid control of radio and press.” But he concluded that such “frightening symptoms of dictatorship” were responses to the colonialist, interventionist mind-set of U.S. foreign policy. The prime mover, the true culprit, was still outside the island; Castro remained absolved.

The beat poets, exemplified by Allen Ginsberg, were less forgiving. Initially impressed by Castro’s meeting with Malcolm X in Harlem in 1960, Ginsberg would soon portray him “as one more Latin American caudillo,” Rojas writes. In his “Prose Contribution to the Cuban Revolution,” published in 1961, the poet decries the mechanisms of social control that he saw in laws and codes against drug use and homosexuality, in communist as well as capitalist systems. “No revolution can succeed if it continues the puritanical censorship of consciousness imposed on the world by Russia and America,” he wrote. And during a trip to Havana in 1965, Ginsberg denounced the regime’s repression of young Cuban writers and even posited that Raul Castro was gay, earning the poet a quick deportation.

Rojas is most energized when discussing the multiple views of the Cuban revolution among African American civil rights activists and leaders of the Black Panther Party in particular, perhaps because their opinions were varied and less easily categorized. Party co-founder Huey P. Newton “advocated subordinating the black cause to a larger socialist cause,” Rojas writes, and admired the mix of nationalism and socialism that he saw in Ho Chi Minh’s Vietnam and Castro’s Cuba. Others such as Stokely Carmichael, however, rejected any prospect of Cold War alliances with the Soviets or did not necessarily link racial emancipation in America to a socialist project, Rojas explains. Meanwhile, Black Panther leader Eldridge Cleaver noted that few of the Cuban revolution’s commanders were black and highlighted the racism in the island’s daily life and ideological rhetoric.

Cuban revolutionary intellectuals, for their part, admired America’s militant black civil rights leaders, even devoting a full issue of Pensamiento Critico, a journal edited by Cuban philosophers and Marxists, to the Black Power movement in 1968, interviewing Carmichael, Newton and others. “The revolutionary struggle of American blacks was demonstrating that it was possible to strike the enemy in its own technologically developed heart,” the editors wrote.

“Fighting Over Fidel” is translated from Spanish, and it reads that way. There are sentence constructions and word choices that I suspect flow more easily in the original. (“Desencuentro,” for instance, is a lovely noun in Spanish, connoting failed expectations and sundered connections; “disencounter” just makes a jarring noise on the page.) And the author frequently reintroduces characters we’ve already met, sometimes just a few pages ago.

Such moments are forgiven, however, when Rojas introduces us to relatively obscure left-wing advocacy groups in New York that supported the revolution, such as the Fair Play for Cuba Committee or the unforgettably named League of Militant Poets. League members published the radical magazine Pa’Lante, featuring works by Ginsberg, photographer Leroy McLucas and poet Michael McClure. Alas, Pa’Lante survived but a single issue before its editors became disenchanted with the Cuban revolution — just another example of the oscillations between enthusiasm and disappointment, sympathy and tension, among distant thinkers observing a distant land. As Rojas puts it, a bit awkwardly but by all means memorably: “The socialist conga dance that these intellectuals of the New York Left joined in 1961 ended like the congas of the Havana carnival always end: in dissolution and complaints.”

A warning: If you’re wondering how the evolution of left-wing thought in New York affected the Cuban government or U.S. policy toward the island — indeed, affected anything beyond itself — don’t look here. Rojas admits early on that “New York’s critical debates on the Cuban Revolution naturally had few effects” on Washington’s approach to Cuba. “Fighting Over Fidel” is intellectual history entirely for its own sake, and as such, it succeeds. If you’re more interested in high-stakes national security dilemmas than in special issues of briefly published Marxist journals, go read “Essence of Decision.” But if you’re curious, intellectually or otherwise, stick with Rojas. I suspect you’ll be glad you did.

494481-john-ftitzgerald-kennedy-gauche-fidel zzz

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José Luis Rodríguez: LAS TRANSFORMACIONES ECONÓMICAS EN CUBA: VISIÓN EXTERNA

CubaDebate, 12 julio 2015 | 34

Original Article here : http://www.cubadebate.cu/opinion/vision-externa

ministro-economia-jose-luis

 José Luis Rodríguez es asesor del Centro de Investigaciones de la Economía Mundial (CIEM). Fue Ministro de Economía de Cuba.

Algo que sin dudas ha llamado la atención a lo largo de la historia de la Revolución es la proliferación de múltiples interpretaciones externas sobre lo que se hace en el país, especialmente en el orden de la política económica. Desafortunadamente, la cantidad no hace la calidad y muchos de los trabajos que se han publicado adolecen de un mínimo de rigor analítico en sus análisis, en especial, aquellos que parten de una visión anti socialista excluyente de otro modelo que no sea afín a la economía de mercado en las diferentes versiones de la misma.

 En el presente artículo no se pretende realizar un balance exhaustivo de todos estos enfoques, ni siquiera de aquellos que se han producido a lo largo de los últimos cinco años y que se relacionan con la actualización del modelo económico en curso. No obstante, resulta útil destacar algunas tendencias presentes en el ámbito académico y que permiten identificar los principales enfoques acerca de las transformaciones económicas que se desarrollan en Cuba en la actualidad.

Lo primero que valdría la pena subrayar es que no se aprecia una ruptura con paradigmas anteriores que han preponderado a la hora de examinar la realidad económica en Cuba a lo largo de los años. Ello se aprecia en los análisis que se llevan a cabo por la Asociación para el Estudio de la Economía Cubana (ASCE) de Estados Unidos, que se reúne sistemáticamente todos los años desde 1990 y que publica la memoria de sus debates en los que continúa siendo mayoritaria una visión cercana al neoliberalismo más ortodoxo y al mainstream de la cubanología tradicional al evaluar nuestra realidad.

En este sentido destacan –como ejemplo- los numerosos artículos de Luis R. Luis, uno de los editores del blog de ASCE, que se empeña en pintar con los tonos más oscuros posibles la realidad económica en Cuba calificándola como economía arruinada y carente de liquidez internacional, lo cual se aprecia en sus recientes artículos “Cuba’s Feeble International Liquidity” (La débil liquidez internacional de Cuba) publicado en el blog de ASCE el 9 de abril y “Cuba-US Reconciliation and Limited Reforms” (Reconciliación Cuba-EEUU y reformas limitadas) publicado el 22 de mayo pasado. En ambos trabajos se constata la ausencia de un análisis objetivo, que no excluya otros enfoques desarrollados por la academia en los propios EEUU, y que no ignore informaciones oficiales del gobierno cubano tales como el discurso del Ministro de Economía y Planificación Marino Murillo, pronunciado en la Asamblea Nacional en diciembre de 2014, donde se brindan numerosas informaciones sobre la política de financiamiento externo del país, entre otros temas de importancia para el análisis.[1]

Afortunadamente, se pueden encontrar otros enfoques no necesariamente afines a las ideas socialistas, pero que elaboran sus tesis con una mayor seriedad y rigor, aun en el terreno en el que necesariamente se mantienen discrepancias de fondo con los economistas que defendemos la Revolución.

Si se examinan los años transcurridos desde que se aprobaron los Lineamientos de la Política Económica y Social del país en abril de 2011, se proyecta una valoración crítica de las medidas propuestas en diversos trabajos del profesor Carmelo Mesa-Lago tal y como aparecen en su libro “Cuba en la era de Raúl Castro. Reformas económico-sociales y sus efectos” (Editorial Colibrí, Madrid, 2012), que reseñé en la revista TEMAS Nº 73 de 2013. Su valoración resumió diversos argumentos basados en una ideología keynesiana que sustentaba el análisis de errores que en su opinión llevaban a la inviabilidad del socialismo en Cuba.

Con posterioridad al 17 de diciembre de 2014, Mesa-Lago se ha pronunciado sobre los cambios en Cuba, incluyendo la perspectiva que se abre en las relaciones con Estados Unidos. En un reciente trabajo titulado “Normalización de las relaciones entre EEUU y Cuba: causas, prioridades, progresos, obstáculos, efectos y peligros” (Real Instituto El Cano, Documento de Trabajo Nº 6/2015, 8 de mayo de 2015 disponible en www.blog.rielcano.org ) el profesor Mesa-Lago realiza un interesante análisis de la nueva situación y ofrece una visión notablemente objetiva de muchos temas que atañen a la evaluación de los cambios en Cuba, lo cual resulta destacable en relación a otros trabajos anteriores. No obstante, el documento tiene un enfoque negativo sobre las relaciones de Cuba con Venezuela tomando como válidas informaciones y datos que resultan especulativos, especialmente cuando valora el supuesto impacto sobre la economía cubana de una contracción económica en Venezuela este año y ubica la situación de ese país como un motivo para buscar el acercamiento de Cuba con Estados Unidos, lo cual no se corresponde con la verdad.

Igualmente el documento cierra con lo que el autor denomina como el enigma de la posición cubana frente al proceso de negociación con Estados Unidos, el cual revela un alto grado de especulación y desconocimiento de las razones que asisten a Cuba para fundamentar sus posiciones. A pesar de estos aspectos controversiales, el documento revela un análisis profundo y abarcador de las relaciones posibles entre Cuba y Estados Unidos por parte del autor, que revela el fruto de un trabajo sistemático y serio sobre estos temas durante muchos años.[2]

II

Un aspecto que es tomado como premisa en el análisis de las transformaciones más recientes de la economía cubana por la mayoría de los autores, es el fracaso del modelo socialista de desarrollo y lo inevitable de la transición a una economía de mercado.

Al respecto se destacan investigadores como Richard E. Feinberg, ex funcionario del gobierno norteamericano, actual profesor de la Universidad de California en San Diego y Senior Fellow de Brookings Institution, uno de los principales tanques pensantes de Estados Unidos. Este analista ha venido publicando sistemáticamente trabajos sobre la economía cubana, entre los que se destacan sus ensayos “Extendiendo la mano: La nueva economía de Cuba y la respuesta internacional” Iniciativa para América Latina, Brookings Institution, Washington, noviembre de 2011, www.brookings.edu y “¿Aterrizaje suave en Cuba? Empresarios emergentes y clases medias” Iniciativa para América Latina, Brookings Institution, Washington, noviembre 8 de 2013, www.brookings.edu.

En el primero de estos trabajos Feinberg defiende la tesis de que constituye una anomalía la no pertenencia de Cuba a organismos financieros internacionales como el FMI y el Banco Mundial, por lo que propone un programa de aproximaciones sucesivas para superar esa situación, tomando como ejemplo los casos de Nicaragua y Vietnam para ello. Sin embargo, esta propuesta no parte de aceptar los cambios que Cuba se planteó en los Lineamientos de la Política Económica y Social, sobre los que el autor expresa que “Las pautas están plagadas de contradicciones internas y siguen rindiendo culto a la planificación centralizada, pero las fracciones pro reforma fueron lo suficientemente fuertes para incluir un lenguaje que transformaría la cultura política y la ética social cubana si se lo interpretara y actuara en consecuencia.”

Claramente sale a relucir que la transición al capitalismo es a fin de cuentas lo determinante y para ello se cifran esperanzas en lo que Feinberg denomina como “las fracciones pro reforma”.

Adicionalmente faltaría por demostrar que es posible ingresar al FMI y sostener un programa de desarrollo como al que Cuba aspira, especialmente si se tiene en cuenta el papel que ha jugado este organismo en la aplicación de las recetas neoliberales a toda costa, tal y como se refleja en estos momentos en su posición frente al actual gobierno de Grecia en la Unión Europea.

Acerca de este supuesto papel positivo del FMI, bastaría con examinar su desempeño en la transición al capitalismo en Europa Oriental y la antigua URSS, cuestión abordada muy seriamente por la investigadora del Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo Emily Morris en el artículo “Unexpected Cuba” publicado en New Left Review Nº 88, Julio-Agosto 2014 www.newleftreview.org [3].

Un analista que trabaja los temas de la economía cubana desde la década de los años 70 del pasado siglo es el profesor de la Universidad de Carleton Archibald Ritter. Autor de uno de los pocos libros sobre la estrategia de desarrollo de Cuba –“The Economic d=Development of Revolutionary Cuba: Strategy and Performance”, Praeger, New York, 1974- ha incursionado con una visión crítica en distintos aspectos del desempeño económico del país, dedicándole especial atención en los últimos años al desarrollo del sector privado. En este sentido Ritter publicó junto a Ted Henken el libro “Entreprenurial Cuba: The Changing Policy Landscape” que vio la luz en 2014[2], trabajo que aborda desde diferentes ángulos la temática del llamado sector no estatal.

Al igual que otros textos, en este libro se examinan las insuficiencias para el desarrollo sin límites de la propiedad privada y cooperativa, por lo que se deja establecido que solo en una economía de mercado pueden evaluarse sus verdaderas potencialidades, con lo que evidentemente se niega la posibilidad de su desarrollo en los límites que supone una economía socialista.

Finalmente vale la pena destacar otro trabajo que –previo al escenario actual de posibles relaciones con Estados Unidos- se elaboró anteriormente. Este es el caso del ensayo de Gary Clyde Hufbauer, Barbara Kotschwar y Cathleen Cimino “Economic Normalization with Cuba. A Roadmap for US Policymakers” Policy Analysis Nº 103, Peterson Institute for International Economy, 2014 www.piie.com . Siguiendo la línea de otros autores, en este análisis se propone para Cuba un modelo de transición a una economía de mercado siguiendo el modelo de Europa Oriental a través de diferentes pasos, que incluyen la apertura del mercado de Estados Unidos y el ingreso a los organismos del sistema financiero internacional, es decir, al FMI, Banco Mundial y Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo.

III

Otros análisis de interés sobre la economía cubana en años recientes, que no toman como premisa una transición inevitable a la economía de mercado en nuestro caso, también puede encontrarse en diferentes autores, sin que se pretenda en este breve artículo hacer un listado exhaustivo de los mismos.

Profundo conocedor de la economía cubana a la que ha estudiado durante muchos años, el economista sueco Claes Brundenius, actualmente Profesor Honorario del Research Policy Institute de la Universidad de Lund, elaboró uno de los libros más importantes sobre el desarrollo socioeconómico en Cuba: “Revolutionary Cuba: The Challenge of Economic Growth with Equity” (Cuba revolucionaria: el desafío del crecimiento económico con equidad) Westview Press, Boulder, 1984, al que siguieron numerosos artículos y libros de especial valor –varios de ellos elaborados en esos años con el destacado profesor Andrew Zimbalist del Smith College.  Entre los trabajos más significativos se destaca “Revolutionary Cuba at 50: Growth with Equity Revisited” (Cuba revolucionaria a los 50: crecimiento con equidad revisados) Latin American Perspectives Volume 36, Nº 2, March 2009.

En uno de sus libros más recientes, coeditado con Ricardo Torres: “No More Free Lunch. Reflections on the Cuban Economic Reform Process and Challenges for Transformation” (No más comida gratis. Reflexiones sobre el proceso cubano de reformas y desafíos para la transformación) Springer, London, 2014; Brundenius ofrece una evaluación sobre los cambios en Cuba y las reformas económicas en Vietnam. Sin dejar de plantear ideas que pueden resultar polémicas, Brundenius arriba –como en trabajos anteriores- a conclusiones más objetivas y balanceadas al afirmar en este libro “Es un poco irónico que mientras nosotros hablamos sobe la crisis del modelo socialista en Cuba, el capitalismo en todo el mundo atraviesa su crisis más profunda desde la Gran Depresión (…) Pero claramente, el capitalismo no es “el fin de la historia” y es ahora más que nunca importante buscar modelos alternativos que puedan combinar la eficiencia de la competitividad de los modelos de mercado con sostenibilidad ambiental combinada con equidad, solidaridad y democracia. Modelos cooperativos pueden ser una importante parte de esas soluciones como se discuten en este volumen.”

Además de Emily Morris ya mencionada anteriormente, un grupo de diversos autores se han destacado por aportes puntuales al análisis socioeconómico de la realidad cubana desde posiciones igualmente objetivas y no prejuiciadas de nuestra realidad.

Entre ellos vale la pena destacar la labor de Albert Campbell, Profesor de Mérito de la Universidad de Utah, que durante años ha emprendido estudios sobre Cuba en el campo de la economía política y la filosofía de indudable relevancia y que fue el editor del más reciente libro publicado en Estados Unidos escrito totalmente por autores cubanos residentes en nuestro país: “Cuban Economist on the Cuban Economy” (Economistas cubanos sobre la economía cubana) The University Press of Florida, Gainesville, 2013.[4]

En este grupo pueden incluirse con diversos matices, los británicos George Lambie –uno de los editores del International Journal of Cuban Studies, del International Institute for the Study of Cuba- y Mervyn Bein, especialista en temas de relaciones entre Cuba y los antiguos países socialistas; el canadiense John Kirk, durante muchos años estudioso de la colaboración internacional brindada por Cuba en el campo de la salud y editor de la colección Contemporary Cuba de la University Press of Florida; los académicos norteamericanos Nelson Valdés Profesor Emérito de Sociología en la Universidad de Nuevo México profundo conocedor de la realidad cubana, creador de uno de los proyectos de investigación más completo sobre Cuba contemporánea –Cuba-L Direct-; Frank Thompson, profesor de la Universidad de Michigan; Paolo Spadoni, profesor asistente de Georgia Regents University y autor del libro “Cuba’s Socialist Economy Today. Navigating Challenges and Change” (La economía de Cuba socialista hoy. Desafíos de la navegación y cambio) Lynne Rienner, Boulder, 2014, libro en el que se realiza un análisis macroeconómico –no exento de criterios debatibles pero interesantes- acerca de las transformaciones en desarrollo actualmente en Cuba; y Jorge R. Piñón un destacado especialista en temas energéticos y director de Latin America and Caribbean Energy Program en la Universidad de Texas en Austin.

Lógicamente, con posterioridad al 17 de diciembre de 2014 el tema de Cuba y su economía ha pasado a ocupar un destacado lugar en todos los análisis, tanto por los especialistas, como por aquellos que comienzan a enfrentarse al estudio de nuestro país.

Un examen sobre estas nuevas visiones y las diferentes teorías que se enarbolan para sustentarlos, merecerá una evaluación más detenida en la misma medida en que se vayan despejando obstáculos que –como la permanencia del bloqueo norteamericano contra Cuba- no permiten una proyección clara de los posibles derroteros de las relaciones económicas entre nuestros dos países a corto plazo.

Por el momento, resulta de mucha importancia para los economistas cubanos mantener un seguimiento de todos los trabajos que se publican en el exterior, especialmente de aquellos académicos que han demostrado una mayor rigurosidad en sus análisis hasta el presente, tomando en cuenta su posible contribución al debate científico y a profundizar en el  desarrollo de los estudios sobre la economía cubana.

Notas

[1] En esta misma línea de pensamiento se incluyen autores como Jorge Sanguinetty, Roger Betancourt, Rolando Castañeda, Joaquín J. Pujol y Ernesto Hernández-Catá todos ponentes regulares de “Cuba in Transition” el anuario que publica la ASCE desde 1990. Ver www.ascecuba.org
[2] En este trabajo no solamente se contrastan críticamente los elementos esenciales de la política económica cubana con la aplicada en los ex países socialistas europeos, sino que se incluye una valoración crítica de los enfoques de la cubanología al respecto, lo cual es un valor añadido muy interesante para el análisis.
[3] Hay una versión disponible en español. Ver “Emily Morris: Cuba ha demostrado que la economía socialista es posible” Cubadebate, noviembre 24 de 2014 en www.cubadebate.cu
[4]La introducción a este libro se encuentra en www.thecubaneconomy.com

 

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Book Launch in New York: ENTREPRENEURIAL CUBA: A DISCUSSION ON CUBA’S EMERGING NON-STATE SECTOR

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Americas Society / Council of the Americas

 

April 2, 2015

AS/COA; 680 Park Avenue; New York, NY    View map

Registration: 12:00 p.m. to 12:30 p.m., April 2, 2015
Lunch and Discussion: 12:30 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.

In 2011, Cuban President Raúl Castro began the process of reforming policies toward entrepreneurs and small, private enterprises. Join Ted Henken and Archibald Ritter as they present their book Entrepreneurial Cuba: The Changing Policy Landscape,* which analyzes the evolution of Cuban policy since 1959. Henken and Ritter will discuss Cuba’s fledgling non-state sector, the underground economy, the new cooperative sector, Cuban entrepreneurs’ responses to the new business environment, and how Obama’s new policy of entrepreneurial engagement might impact Cuba’s “cuentapropistas.”

*Copies of the book will be available for purchase.

Speakers:

  • Ted A. Henken, Professor of Sociology and Latin American Studies, Baruch College, CUNY
  • Archibald R.M. Ritter, Distinguished Research Professor, Department of Economics, Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada
  • Alana Tummino, Policy Director, Americas Society/Council of the Americas; Senior Editor, Americas Quarterly (Moderator)

Registration Fee:   This event is complimentary for all registrants. Prior registration is required.

Event Information: Sarah Bons | sbons@as-coa.org | 212-277-8363
Press: Adriana La Rotta | alarotta@as-coa.org | 212-277-8384
Cancellation: Contact Juan Serrano-Badrena at jserrano@counciloftheamericas.org before 3:00 p.m. on Wednesday, April 1, 2015

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New Book: REVOLUTIONARY CUBA: A HISTORY

By: Luis Martínez-Fernández The following is the publicity/sales information from the publisher. I will try and review this volume in the near future.

Publisher: University Press of Florida, 15 NW 15th Street, Gainesville, FL 32611

Details: 408 pages 6×9 Cloth: $44.95

ISBN 13: 978-0-8130-4995-3 Pubdate: 10/14/2014

Revolutionary Cuba, A History   Hyperlinks to:

Table of Contents

Excerpt: Chapter 2 Fatherland or Death: Setting the Revolution’s Foundations:  

Comments on the book: “A remarkable achievement. The most comprehensive, synthetic, and systematic appraisal of the Cuban Revolution to date.”–Jorge Duany, author of Blurred Borders “Passionate and balanced, Luis Martínez-Fernández guides the reader expertly through the seemingly endless twists, turns, and detours of the Cuban Revolution.”–Gustavo Pérez Firmat, author of Life on the Hyphen

This is the first book in more than three decades to offer a complete and chronological history of revolutionary Cuba, including the years of rebellion that led to the revolution.

Beginning with Batista’s coup in 1952, which catalyzed the rebels, and bringing the reader to the present-day transformations initiated by Raúl Castro, Luis Martínez-Fernández provides a balanced interpretive synthesis of the major topics of contemporary Cuban history. Expertly weaving the myriad historic, social, and political forces that shaped the island nation during this period, Martínez-Fernández examines the circumstances that allowed the revolution to consolidate in the early 1960s, the Soviet influence throughout the latter part of the Cold War, and the struggle to survive the catastrophic Special Period of the 1990s after the collapse of the U.S.S.R. He tackles the island’s chronic dependence on sugar production that, starting with the plantations centuries ago, continues to shape Cuba’s culture and society today.

He analyzes the revolutionary pendulum that continues to swing between idealism and pragmatism, focusing on its effects on the everyday lives of the Cuban people, and–bucking established trends in Cuban scholarship.

Martínez-Fernández systematically integrates the Cuban diaspora into the larger discourse of the revolution. Concise, well written, and accessible, this book is an indispensable survey of the history and themes of the socialist revolution that forever changed Cuba and the world.

Luis Martínez-Fernández, professor of history at the University of Central Florida, is coeditor of Encyclopedia of Cuba: People, History, Culture and the author of numerous books including Frontiers, Plantations, and Walled Cities: Essays on Society, Culture and Politics in the Hispanic Caribbean.

New Picture (5)New Picture

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Review Essay, REVOLUTION IN THE REVOLUTION: RECENT DEVELOPMENTS IN THE CUBAN ECONOMY

 Latin American Research Review, Volume 49, Number 3 (2014)

By Arch Ritter

hdrs-eng Original article here: https://lasa.international.pitt.edu/LARR/prot/fulltext/vol49no3/49-3_246-255_Ritter.pdf

Cuban Economists on the Cuban Economy. Edited by Al Campbell. Gainesville, FL: The University Press of Florida, 2013. Pp. xvii + 337. $79.95 cloth. ISBN: 9780813044235.

Cuban Economic and Social Development: Policy Reforms and Challenges in the 21st Century. Edited by Jorge I. Domínguez, Omar Everleny Pérez Villanueva, Mayra Espina Prieto and Lorena Barberia. David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, USA, 2012. Pp. iii + 333. $24.99 paper.  ISBN: 9780674062434.

Cuba Since the Revolution of 1959: A Critical Assessment. By Samuel Farber. Chicago, IL: Haymarket Books, 2011. Pp.ix + 369. $24.00 paper. ISBN: 9781608461394.

Cuban Revelations: behind the Scenes in Havana, By Marc Frank, University Press of Florida, 2013. Pp. iii + 327. $29.95 cloth. ISBN: 9789813944651

Cuba Under Raúl Castro: Assessing the Reforms. By Carmelo Mesa-Lago and Jorge Pérez-López. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers, Inc., 2013. Pp.xv + 295. $65.00 cloth. ISBN: 9781588269043.

¿Quo vadis, Cuba? La incierta senda de las reformas . Edited by Pavel Vidal and José Antonio Alonso.  Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2011. Pp. xvii + 453. $48.00 paper. ISBN: 9780268029830.

 When President Fidel Castro experienced a medical emergency on July 31, 2006, First Vice-President Raúl Castro assumed the role of Acting President, and was then declared President in February 2008 by the National Assembly. Hopes for change were high relative to the almost half century of Fidel’s presidency because Raúl was considered to be more pragmatic than Fidel.  During the first years of Raúl “acting” and then full Presidency, policy changes were modest, uncertain and hesitant.  However, after deliberation and some modest policy experimentation, the pace of reform accelerated in 2010.

In his first major speech in July of 2007, Raúl acknowledged the difficulties that the economy faced and the dimension of the reform effort that would be needed to overcome its problems. “To have more, we have to begin by producing more, with a sense of rationality and efficiency, so that we may reduce imports, especially of food products –that may be grown here– whose domestic production is still a long way away from meeting the needs of the population.”[1] This contrasted with the complacency of the last years of the Fidel era. Raúl emphasized the necessity of improving agriculture as well as industry and mentioned the possibility of increasing direct foreign investment.  He discussed “social indiscipline” and the expansion of the underground economy.  He assured citizens that the government was studying these issues and would soon introduce appropriate policies.  In subsequent speeches – shorter and less frequent than those of his elder brother – Raúl demonstrated increased pragmatism and decreased ideological rigidity. He also has shown an awareness of the need to break with some traditional Cuban economic institutions and policies.  Such change was ultimately necessary in his view for political reasons, to ensure the long-term viability of Cuba as an independent nation he stated:

We are facing unpleasant realities, but we do not close our eyes to them.  We are convinced that we need to break away from dogmas and assume firmly and confidently the ongoing upgrading of our economic model in order to set the foundations of the irreversibility of Cuban socialism and its development, which we know is the guarantee of our national sovereignty and independence.[2]

He did not view such changes as adoption of any sort of “capitalism,” but instead considered it an “up-dating” or “modernization” (actualización) of Cuban socialism.  However, Raúl’s concept of socialism reflected a change from the Fidelista view: it no longer implied an aspiration to equal outcomes.

Socialism means social justice and equality, but equality of rights and opportunities, not salaries.  Equality does not mean egalitarianism.  This is, in the end, another form of exploitation, that of the exploitation of the responsible worker by the one who is not, or even worse, by the slothful.[3]

Raúl also emphasized that policy changes were to be introduced with deliberativeness and caution. This was certainly the approach prior to mid-2010.

The major reforms of 2010 began with the proposal to downsize employment in the state sector by 500,000 presumably redundant state employees by the end of March 2011 and 1.5 million by the end of 2012 with the hope that they would somehow be absorbed productively by an invigorated small enterprise sector. Then came the publication of the ambitious and comprehensive “Draft Guide for Economic and Social Reform” published in November 2010. The Guide was discussed broadly throughout Cuba, revised, and then approved at the Sixth Congress of Cuba’s Communist Party in April 2011. Since then, there has been a steady series of economic reforms introduced that are transforming the economy increasingly into a “mixed” economy with significant state, private, cooperative and joint venture sectors (the latter with foreign and state enterprises) together with a greater reliance on the market mechanism for the social control of economic activity.

Is this a “Revolution in the Revolution”, to hijack Regis Debray’s catchy book title?[4] The answer is “probably yes”.  Raúl’s reforms amount to a repudiation of almost a half century of the institutions and policies mainly borrowed from and/or inspired by the countries of the Soviet Bloc. The reforms also constitute a rejection of the impetuous and capricious policy experimentation of Fidel. Indeed, by 2014 Raúl already had been successful in forging his own legacy and emerging from the shadow of his elder brother.

Eight years after the accession of Raúl, it is time for an analysis and evaluation of his revised approach to economic management. Not surprisingly, a large number of books dedicated to this task have been published recently. The volumes reviewed here all focus directly on, or include lengthy analyses of the Raúlista reforms.[5]

The authors come from a variety of analytical traditions and disciplines. They include Carmelo Mesa-Lago and Jorge Pérez-López as well as the Spanish authors of the Vidal-Alonso volume whose approach is by and large mainstream economics, the more radical economist Al Campbell and also political scientists Samuel Farber and Jorge Domínguez. Included are analysts from the Center for the Study of the Cuban Economy (CEEC) and other institutes of the University of Havana (in the Vidal-Alonso and the Domínguez et. al. volumes) many of whom have been moderate reformists since the early 1990s. About half of the analysts in Al Campbell’s volume have been working in the National Institute for Economic Studies (INIE), the main governmental economic think-tank, with the remainder from other branches of the government or its institutes. It is tempting to label these authors the “old guard” but some such as Miguel Figueras and José Luis Rodríguez can be said to have been moderate reformists as well, and all profess to be supporters of Raúl’s reforms.

These volumes all make important contributions to the analysis and understanding of Cuba’s overall economic situation. However, economic policies in a range of vital issue areas remain to be analyzed in greater depth as part of the process of the actualización of the Cuban economy.

One hopes that the next round of major publications on the Cuban economy will investigate some of these specific policy areas more profoundly than was possible in any of the general volumes reviewed here. Of particular relevance would be analyses of the policies toward agriculture, industry, energy, infrastructure, the service sector, small enterprise and the private sector, cooperatives, state enterprise, foreign investment and joint ventures, exchange rate and monetary issues, trade policy, policy towards foreign investment, social policies, health and education, labor issues, pensions demographic issues, cultural areas, etc. The work ahead is daunting.

What remains to be seen is how far economic reforms can proceed without any actualización of Cuba’s political system.

CONTINUE READING: Revolution in the Revolution, LARR, Ritter, October 2014

larr-cover[1]NOTES

[1] Cuban Communist Party, “Speech by the First Vice-President of the Councils of State and Ministers, Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, at the main celebration of the 54th Anniversary of the attack on Moncada and Carlos Manuel de Céspedes Garrisons, at the Major General Ignacio Agramonte Loynaz Revolution Square in the city of Camagüey. July 26th, 2007, ‘Year 49 of the Revolution.,’” Diario Granma, July 27, 2007.

[2] Yohandry Fontana, “Key Address by Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, President of the State Council and the Council of Ministers and Second Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba Central Committee,” Yohandryweb’s Noticias, April 4, 2009, http://yohandryweb.wordpress.com/2010/04/04/300/.

[3] President Raúl Castro, Speech at the Close of the Seventh Legislature of the national Assembly, 11 July 2008, http://www.ratb.org.uk/raul-castro/149-full-text-of-a-speech- president-raul-castro-at- the-first-ordinary-period-of-sessions-of-the-seventh-legislature-of-the-national-assembly. Accessed March 5, 2014

[4] Régis Debray, Revolution In The Revolution? Armed Struggle and Political Struggle In Latin America  (New York: Penguin Books Ltd),1968.

[5] Other books focusing on this theme include: Muricio A. Font and Carlos Riobo (Editors). Handbook of Contemporary Cuba: Economy, Politics, Civil Society and Globalization, Boulder and London: Paradigm Publishers, 2013; Claes Brundenius and Ricardo Torres Perez (Editors). No More free Lunch: Reflections on the Cuban Economic Reform process and Challenges for Transformation, Switzerland: Springer, 2013; and Alberto Gabriele (Editor). The Economy of Cuba after the VI Party Congress, New York: Nova Science Publishers, 2012.

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Book Review: Al Campbell (Editor) Cuban Economists on the Cuban Economy.

Cuban Economists on the Cuban Economy. Edited by Al Campbell. Gainesville, FL: The University Press of Florida, 2013. Pp. xvii + 337. $79.95 cloth. ISBN: 9780813044235.

indexBy Arch Ritter

Eight years after the accession of Raúl, it is time for an analysis and evaluation of his revised approach to economic management. Not surprisingly, a large number of books dedicated to this task have been published recently.[i] Among these is an interesting volume edited by  Al Campbell of the University of Utah appeared in 2013.

Al Campbell’s collection of essays, Cuban Economists on the Cuban Economy, purposely includes some well-established analysts some of whom are less well-known outside of Cuba because they write in Spanish mainly for domestic policy formulation and publication. It is tempting to label these authors the “old guard” but some such as Miguel Figueras and José Luis Rodríguez can be said to have been moderate reformists as well, and all profess to be supporters of Raúl’s reforms. It is pleasing to see some new work by senior economists such as Figueras,. Rodríguez and the late Ángela Ferriol.

Generally, the volume strikes an “oficialista” tone, and excludes those economists from the University of Havana Center for Studies on the Cuban Economy who have been analyzing the reform process for the last 20 years as well as so-called “dissident” economists.

The volume seems to have passed its “best before….” date as the essays were written in the first half of 2010 using data up to 2008 or 2007. The authors were instructed to focus on the “Special Period” following the dissolution of the Soviet Union and consequent dramatic cuts in Soviet aid to Cuba; they “were specifically asked not to comment on the proposed reforms in their final chapter revisions…”  (Campbell  p.7)  Unfortunately this reduces the relevance of the book for assessing the economic experience and analyzing post 2010 policy reforms during Raúl’s Presidency. It would indeed be interesting to have the frank evaluations of Raúl’s reforms since 2011 from this group of analysts. The volume is nonetheless useful for understanding the economic challenges that Raúl inherited.

The Campbell collection includes twelve essays grouped in three sections.”  Section I, “The Macroeconomy,” includes a chapter by José Luis Rodríguez reviewing the general macroeconomic experience of the 1979-2009 period, a chapter by Oscar U-Echevarría Vallejo on changing development strategies, policy reforms and sectorial changes in the whole 1959-2009 period; a chapter on Cuba’s changing international economic relations during the “Special Period” by Nancy Quiñones Chang, and a description of the planning process prior to the expansion of the private sector after 2010 by Elena Álvares González.

The second section focuses on socioeconomic issues. An essay by Rita Castiñeiras García on “…The Human Dimension….” constitutes an uncritical listing of the achievements of the Revolution. For example, she accepts as a significant advance the expansion of the university system to include over 700 centers (Castiñeiras García p.156). But in 2011 under Raúl, the huge expansion of the university system was reversed and reduced to 119 centers with a large cut in enrolments as well. (Mesa-Lago, p.144) The essay by Juan Carlos Alfonso Fraga on demography and the aging of the population is useful, with its focus on the aging process, its consequences and relevant public policies.  Some analysis of Cuba’s fertility rate, its determinants and relevant public policies would also have been welcome; this is now 1.4 children per woman, the lowest in the Hemisphere, among the lowest in the world and well below the 2.2 level necessary for long-term sustainability.[1]

Ángela Ferriol’s essay on poverty acknowledges its existence in Cuba and outlines the programs designed to reduce it. A chapter on labor issues by Alfredo Morales Cartaya paints a Pollyanna picture, ignoring the collapse of the real value of wages, salaries, pensions and social security payments since 1990. Omitted as well is any consideration of the absence of meaningful collective bargaining, the right to strike and independent labor unions.

The third section then includes two essays on tourism, one on agriculture, and one on “knowledge-based” industries. The latter two essays are particularly unhelpful and offer virtually no serious policy analysis or evaluation.

[1] United Nations Development Program, Human Development Report, 2013. Statistical Annex, Table 14, p. 194.

[i] Among other volumes recently published on the reform process under President Raul Castro are the following:

Cuban Economic and Social Development: Policy Reforms and Challenges in the 21st Century. Edited by Jorge I. Domínguez, Omar Everleny Pérez Villanueva, Mayra Espina Prieto and Lorena Barberia. David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, USA, 2012. Pp. iii + 333. $24.99 paper.  ISBN: 9780674062434.

Cuba Since the Revolution of 1959: A Critical Assessment. By Samuel Farber. Chicago, IL: Haymarket Books, 2011. Pp.ix + 369. $24.00 paper. ISBN: 9781608461394.

Cuban Revelations: behind the Scenes in Havana, By Marc Frank, University Press of Florida, 2013. Pp. iii + 327. $29.95 cloth. ISBN: 9789813944651

Cuba Under Raúl Castro: Assessing the Reforms. By Carmelo Mesa-Lago and Jorge Pérez-López. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers, Inc., 2013. Pp.xv + 295. $65.00 cloth. ISBN: 9781588269043.

¿Quo vadis, Cuba? La incierta senda de las reformas . Edited by Pavel Vidal and José Antonio Alonso.  Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2011. Pp. xvii + 453. $48.00 paper. ISBN: 9780268029830.

Handbook of Contemporary Cuba: Economy, Politics, Civil Society and Globalization, Mauricio A. Font and Carlos Riobo (Editors). Boulder and London: Paradigm Publishers, 2013;

No More free Lunch: Reflections on the Cuban Economic Reform Process and Challenges for Transformation, Claes Brundenius and Ricardo Torres Perez (Editors). Switzerland: Springer, 2013;

The Economy of Cuba after the VI Party Congress,  Alberto Gabriele (Editor). New York: Nova Science Publishers, 2012.

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Book Review: CUBAN ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT: POLICY REFORMS AND CHALLENGES IN THE 21ST CENTURY

By Archibald Ritter

 Cuban Economic and Social Development: Policy Reforms and Challenges in the 21st Century. Edited by Jorge I. Domínguez, Omar Everleny Pérez Villanueva, Mayra Espina Prieto and Lorena Barberia. David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, USA, 2012. Pp. iii + 333. $24.99 paper.  ISBN: 9780674062434.

This volume is a co-produced University of Havana / Harvard volume edited by Jorge Domínguez, Omar Everleny Pérez Villanueva, Mayra Espina Prieto and Lorena G. Barberia. Its objective is to describe and diagnose some of the central economic and social challenges that Cuba faces and to analyze some policy alternatives for meeting these challenges. The analyses are written by the University of Havana analysts who are among the strongest and most authoritative in their areas. These are accompanied by commentaries from professors at Harvard and the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. The papers were prepared before the presentation of the government’s preliminary reform program, as outlined in its November 2010 Guide, though Domínguez’s introduction was written on the eve of the April 2011 Sixth Party Congress and draws on the authors’ analyses as well as the government’s proposals. Fortunately, the University of Havana authors present analyses of the key issue areas in an ambitious and long-term frame that goes beyond the discussion in the Guide and therefore does not read as dated.

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The opening chapter by Pérez Villanueva presents a summary overview of Cuba’s economic performance during the “Special Period” to 2010. His analysis leads to the conclusion that, “economic reform should be seen as the first of the structural changes that the country requires. Cuba’s economic problem is that the current economic system cannot serve as a starting point for the country’s development.” (Villanueva 16) He then proposes a variety of policy changes, some of which have in been incorporated into the Government’s policy reform program, for example ending rationing and state regulation rather than direct management of enterprises.

            Two essays on Cuba’s dual monetary and exchange rate system are included from Vidal Alejandro, formerly with the Banco Central de Cuba. The first focuses on the sources, character and cure of the monetary/exchange rate duality. Of special interest is the section proposing a set of policy reforms that provide a strategic approach for the establishment of a single currency.  Vidal Alejandro’s second essay is a more technical analysis of the international economic crisis of 2008-2009 and its repercussions for Cuban monetary policy. 

            Armando Nova González, who by now must be considered the “dean” of agricultural analysts in Cuba, has contributed two essays on Cuban agriculture. The first outlines the reforms of the early 1990s, analyzes and evaluates their impacts, and presents the range of policy changes required to resuscitate agricultural production, some of which have begun already. The second chapter then analyzes the impacts of the 2007-2010 reforms implemented after Raúl’s assumption of the Presidency. His central conclusion is that while the pricing, land redistribution and institutional reorganization reforms have been significant and positive, the reforms “lack a systemic focus” and require further deepening. (p.91)

In chapter six, Anicia García provides a fifty-five page analysis of agricultural production, food availability, and imports and exports of food and agricultural inputs. The sector has been severely damaged by its low policy priority over the last twenty five years, low prices in the state marketing system, minimal investment, a perverse exchange rate, and the strength of foreign competition – notably from the United States since the opening of agricultural exports to Cuba by that country. This is an impressively detailed and comprehensive analysis, clearly the best to appear so far. Following this is a fine chapter by Pérez Villanueva on direct foreign investment extracting insights from the experience of China and Vietnam for Cuba.

            Mayra Espina Prieto and Viviana Togores González contribute a valuable chapter analyzing Cuba’s changing socio-economic structures since the beginning of the “Special Period” in 1990, characterized by greater economic and social differentiation among sectors, regions, social groups and individuals and some exacerbation of inequalities, all of which have been generated by enhanced social mobility for those riding high in emerging economic activities and sectors of the economy, notably the higher end “self-employment” activities such as tourist oriented restaurants and “bed and breakfasts.”  New circumstances require new policy approaches and the authors emphasize the importance of targeting social programs, of focusing at the household level, of enhanced and sustained financial support for social policy and of social program decentralization.

The last chapter, by Lucy Martín Posada and Lilia Núñes Moreno, examines the regional and housing dimensions of inequality in Cuba. Drawing on regional statistical information from the Oficina Nacional de Estadísticas, the work of other analysts, their own analyzes and a survey, they construct a clear portrait of regional, housing and economic inequalities. They also present a range of specific policy recommendations for reducing these inequalities.

All in all, this is a valuable analytical survey of some of the central issue areas in Cuba’s current reform process. However, economic policies in a range of vital issue areas remain to be analyzed in greater depth as part of the process of the actualización of the Cuban economy. One hopes that the next round of major publications on the Cuban economy will investigate some of these specific policy areas more profoundly than was possible in a general volume such as this. Of particular relevance would be analyses of the policies toward industry, energy, infrastructure, the service sector, small enterprise and the private sector, cooperatives, state enterprise, foreign investment and joint ventures, exchange rate and monetary issues, trade policy, policy towards foreign investment, social policies, health and education, labor issues, pensions, demographic issues, cultural areas, etc. The work ahead is daunting.

 

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Book Review: ¿Quo vadis, Cuba? La incierta senda de las reformas

 

By Archibald Ritter

¿Quo vadis, Cuba? La incierta senda de las reformas . Edited by Pavel Vidal and José Antonio Alonso.  Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2011. Pp. xvii + 453. $48.00 paper. ISBN: 9780268029830.

Quo Vadis, Cuba? edited by Pavel Vidal and Jose Antonio Alonso, is a co-production of the Center for the Study of the Cuban Economy of the Universidad de la Habana (CEEC), and the Institute for International Studies at the Complutense University of Madrid  (Instituto Complutense de Estudios Internacionales of the Universidad Complutense de Madrid).[1] The project was financed by the Spanish Agency for International Cooperation.  

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The volume does not attempt to make a comprehensive overview analysis of the functioning of the economy or a complete set of prescriptions for economic reform. Instead, the objective of the volume is “…to make a modest contribution to the search for useful paths for a “renovated” Cuba,” (Vidal and Antonio Alonso p.24.) and in this it succeeds. The Cuban-Spanish team has produced an outstanding set of analyses of a number of the central economic conundrums facing the Cuban economy.  

The analysts at CEEC have been focusing on Cuba’s economic situation now for some twenty years. They have steadily pushed the envelope, arguing forcefully and courageously from within Cuba regarding the need and possible shapes for reforms. They have also “stayed in the game” – in contrast to the dissident analysts such as Miriam Celaya, Dimas Castellanos and the late Oscar Chepe,  among others who work outside the system. While the CEEC analysts have perhaps had only a limited direct role in decision-making, they have been instrumental in moving the discussion forward and supporting the changing climate of opinion regarding economic institutions and policy.

The first chapter by Juan Triana Cordoví and José Antonio Alfonso, focusing on the foundations of economic growth, begins with some discussion of growth theorizing and possible insights from international experience for Cuba. It then analyzes Cuba’s growth performance, and discusses strategic options. The policy recommendations that it arrives at are fairly standard – namely promoting exports and solving the problem of the dual exchange rate and monetary system.  The third recommendation, which calls for the actualización of policy regarding the promotion of direct foreign investment (to complement domestic savings levels and stimulate technological transfer), is perhaps a bit surprising in view of Cuba’s three decades of policy hostility and then another two decades of policy reticence.[2]  

Ricardo Torres and Isabel Álvarez present a strong analysis of technical innovation, including a quick review of some theorizing, some comparative international experience and an analysis of structural changes in industry, trade and employment and the technological dimension thereof during the Special Period. They attribute the technological lag to low savings and investment levels, weak infrastructure, limited access to technology from abroad, and “the inertia and ‘immovilismo’ of Cuba’s managerial systems…” (Torres and Álvarez p.129.)  Among their policy suggestions are higher levels of savings and investment to permit accelerated incorporation of new technologies and structural change and a broadening of the self-employment sector to permit professional activities that would utilize Cuba’s well-educated labor force more effectively.

This volume also includes outstanding chapters analyzing tax reform and enterprise by Omar Everleny Perez, Saira Pons and Carlos Garcimartin; on Cuba’s social challenges and policy targeting by Anicia Garcia, Susanne Gratius and Luisa Íñiguez Rojas, and a chapter on the decentralization of state programs by Santiago Díaz de Sarralde and Julio César Guanche.             The concluding chapter by the editors entitled “Rules, Incentives and Institutions” outlines the “required institutional transformation” that Cuba needs to undergo, namely “the readjustment of the rules, norms, values and organizations inherited from the past:” The precise form of that readjustment is unstated, but “[t]he framework of economic and social incentives within which Cubans functioned in the past is called upon to transform itself and must be progressively replaced by another that will be coherent with the objectives of the reform” (p. 257).

This challenging chapter discusses the place of institutions in the development process, institutional quality and the process of institutional change in Cuban agriculture, the non-agricultural self-employment and micro-enterprise sector, the cooperative sector, and the direct foreign investment area. It emphasizes the pre-requisites for the functioning of markets (secure property rights, security of contracts, effective competition) and also market failure. It also includes brief analyses of the opposition to current institutional reform (inertia and opposition to change, potential loss of position by vested interests and the social hierarchy, and impacts on income distribution.)  The authors conclude that while reformist gradualism has certain advantages, an activist prioritization of reforms is desirable, such that the first reforms generate clear benefits for broad sectors of the population thereby building support for further reforms. All in all, this book makes valuable contributions to the understanding of the reformist challenges facing Cuba as it resolves some of its most pressing economic problems and moves towards a mixed but more market-oriented economy with major roles for the small enterprise and cooperative sectors.



[1] Six of the seven Cuban authors were from CEEC and five of the Spanish authors are from the Universidad Complutense. The editor on the Cuban side, Pavel Vidal, was at CEEC but is currently at the Pontifica Universidad Javeriana at Cali Colombia.

[2] The authors contrast the highly successful nickel sector, which has had a major role for foreign investment (in the form of Sherritt International) with the autarkic and disastrous sugar sector.

Pavel Vidal.pngAAAPavel Vidal Alejandro

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