Tag Archives: Exchange Rate Policy

LA UNIFICACIÓN MONETARIA Y CAMBIARIA EN CUBA: NORMAS, EFECTOS, OBSTÁCULOS Y PERSPECTIVAS

DOCUMENTO DE TRABAJO 2/2021,  5 DE FEBRERO DE 2021, REAL INSTITUTO ELCANO

Carmelo Mesa-Lago

Original Article: Mesa-Lago 2021 Monetary Unification

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

¿UNIFICACIÓN MONETARIA Y CAMBIARIA EN CONDICIONES DE RE-DOLARIZACIÓN?

Fecha: septiembre 8, 2020

Autor: Mauricio de Miranda

Articulo Original: Unificación Monetaria

Desde hace varios días en diversos medios de prensa cubanos han comenzado a aparecer argumentos sobre la necesidad de proceder a la unificación monetaria y cambiaria, haciendo énfasis en las consecuencias negativas del establecimiento de una dualidad monetaria en los años 90 del siglo XX. A esto se suman muy recientes rumores, no confirmados, que indicarían la posibilidad de que en poco tiempo se suprima la circulación del peso convertible y la unificación de precios en pesos cubanos de los bienes y servicios que se ofrecen en las redes comerciales estatales, así como una nueva tasa de cambio única que devaluaría considerablemente el tipo de cambio oficial actual de 1 USD = 1 CUP que solo funciona para las empresas del Estado, pero que, al parecer, revaluaría la actual tasa de mercado, también oficial, de 1 USD = 24 y 25 CUP (según se trate si es tipo de cambio de compra o de venta de la moneda extranjera). A estos rumores se suma la existencia de una supuesta nueva escala salarial que funcionaría para el sector estatal y que multiplicaría en varias veces todos los niveles salariales actuales (sin que se diga nada de las pensiones de jubilación antiguas).

Lo curioso es que todo esto ocurra unos meses después que el gobierno cubano decidiera abrir tiendas minoristas en las que se venderían una serie de artículos, considerados de “alta gama”, pero que después se ampliaron a bienes de primera necesidad, usando tarjetas magnéticas, respaldadas por depósitos en dólares u otras monedas libremente convertibles (MLC), lo que ha significado, en la práctica, una nueva segmentación del mercado en productos que se venden en divisas extranjeras y productos que se venden en las monedas nacionales y que, eventualmente, se venderían en una sola, como resultado de la “unificación”. Así las cosas, vale la pena aclarar que toda vez que circulen diversas monedas en un mercado, así sea a partir de la existencia de depósitos a la vista, no estamos en presencia de una real unificación monetaria.

Uno de los problemas de la dualidad monetaria existente ha sido la multiplicidad de tipos de cambio, pero sobre todo la persistencia, durante 60 años, de un tipo de cambio fijo, artificialmente sobrevaluado, del peso cubano respecto al dólar estadounidense, que no refleja las condiciones económicas reales de la economía nacional en relación con la economía internacional y que ha distorsionado seriamente la competitividad de todo el sistema empresarial cubano.

Se puede establecer una nueva tasa de cambio, se pueden modificar los precios y se pueden reformar los salarios y jubilaciones, pero con ello solo se pondrá un orden momentáneo a las relaciones monetarias y a los sistemas de precio y de salarios en el país, pero no necesariamente se pondrá fin a las distorsiones del sistema económico cubano ni del sistema monetario en particular.

La existencia de un mercado, por limitado que pueda resultar, en el que el peso cubano no cumple sus funciones como dinero va a generar una demanda adicional de las divisas extranjeras en el mercado informal, generando opciones de beneficios extraordinarios para quienes operen este mercado informal. Si, como es usual, se persigue a estos actores económicos con medidas punitivas solo se conseguirá aumentar la brecha entre los tipos de cambio entre los mercados formales e informales. Por tanto, sería prudente adelantarse a este tipo de escenarios con la adopción de medidas económicas adecuadas.

¿Cuáles deberían ser este tipo de medidas?

  1. Será necesario definir qué tipo de sistema cambiario va a establecerse. ¿Una caja de conversión como la que determinó la paridad del peso cubano con el dólar antes de 1959 o como la que produjo el establecimiento del llamado CUC? Esto significaría un anclaje nominal del peso con el dólar, en la cantidad que se defina, y la variación del tipo de cambio con las demás divisas, siguiendo el curso del dólar. Esta medida, no evitaría que el país afronte una crisis cambiaria cuando se produzca una nueva crisis de balanza de pagos, lo cual puede ser algo previsible en el caso cubano, si no se solucionan los problemas estructurales, no se alcanza un mayor ritmo de crecimiento económico y no se logra una mejor inserción internacional de la economía. ¿Un tipo de cambio flexible? Podría resultar lo más lógico para que el tipo de cambio fuera el que absorbiera los choques externos y la política macroeconómica no quedara supeditada al sostenimiento de una determinada paridad cambiaria. Sin embargo, en este escenario habría que estar preparados para una depreciación sostenida del peso cubano en la medida en la que no mejoren las condiciones de producción de bienes y de servicios y con las consecuentes presiones inflacionarias.
  2. La realidad indica que tanto el peso cubano como el peso convertible están sobrevalorados, tanto en el tipo de cambio del primero como del segundo, lo cual significa que ambos valen más de lo que deberían valer. El tipo de cambio oficial con el que funcionan las empresas es absurdo y no guarda relación alguna con la realidad. El tipo de cambio de las CADECA, que durante mucho tiempo se ha mantenido estable, parece mostrar signos de sobrevaloración ante la reaparición de un mercado informal con valores que en estos momentos han estado oscilando entre 1,30 y 1,80 CUC por dólar. Esto es consecuencia de dos fenómenos muy concretos: a) la ruptura de la “caja de conversión” que sustentaba la condición de convertibilidad del CUC a una paridad de 1 USD = 1 CUC y según la cual solo se emitirían CUC como USD existieran para respaldarlos y b) la reaparición de un mercado en el que solo se opera en MLC, por lo que la demanda por las divisas foráneas aumenta considerablemente. La sobrevaloración de una moneda nacional desestimula las exportaciones porque las encarece y estimula las importaciones porque las abarata relativamente. Si se adopta un tipo de cambio de partida, de forma administrativa, que no refleje las condiciones reales de la economía, se reproducirán las distorsiones actuales, porque el tipo de cambio es el precio relativo que permite conectar la economía de cualquier país con la economía internacional. Por esa razón, en lugar de adoptar medidas administrativas sería mucho mejor tener en cuenta las señales que ofrece el mercado. Así las cosas, el CUP podría cambiarse a 25 por CUC actuales para efectos internos, pero el tipo de cambio del USD con el CUP que se establezca como nivel de partida, debería considerar esas señales del mercado y, por tanto, devaluarse en lugar de revaluarse.
  3. Para que el peso cubano (CUP) sea realmente convertible debe asegurar su plena convertibilidad interna, garantizando el funcionamiento adecuado del mercado cambiario y permitiendo que la moneda nacional opere de manera plena con fuerza liberatoria ilimitada y curso forzoso en todo el territorio nacional, lo cual cuestiona el funcionamiento de las nuevas tiendas en MLC, fuertemente criticadas por la población por justas razones.
  4. Nada de esto tiene sentido si no se adoptan las medidas económicas necesarias para impulsar la producción de bienes y de servicios. Si no se adoptan las medidas para aumentar la oferta de bienes y de servicios, se corre el riesgo de una espiral inflacionaria, que si se pretende impedir de forma artificial, con los racionamientos o con topes de precio, se manifestará en la forma ya conocida de “inflación reprimida”, que no es otra cosa que la escasez y las colas y la dinamización del mercado subterráneo. Así las cosas, lo más adecuado sería eliminar todas las cortapisas que han impedido el desarrollo de la producción de bienes y de servicios por parte de productores privados y cooperativos, junto a la autonomía operativa y financiera de las empresas estatales. En tal sentido, es imprescindible adoptar la secuencia adecuada y ello significa que lo primero sería eliminar las restricciones actuales al funcionamiento de las pequeñas y medianas empresas (PyMES) privadas y cooperativas, las cuales, en un clima adecuado podrían absorber la fuerza de trabajo que actualmente resulta excesiva en el sector estatal y podría producir bienes y servicios que el sector estatal se ha mostrado incapaz de producir. Para ello es necesario crear el clima institucional adecuado para promover el ahorro interno y la inversión tanto foránea como doméstica, sin restricciones de tipo de propiedad. Esto debería ir acompañado de la modificación de las normas adoptadas recientemente para regular la participación del sector privado y cooperativo en el comercio exterior que son, a todas luces, inadecuadas.

El costo económico y político de continuar despreciando las leyes económicas puede ser muy grave para el país. La política económica debería orientarse a la adopción de las medidas que permitan salir de la crisis y conducir a una ruta de crecimiento sostenido que tenga un efecto positivo en el mejoramiento del nivel de desarrollo económico y social, superando las barreras ideológicas derivadas de concepciones dogmáticas.

Publicado originalmente en La Joven Cuba. https://jovencuba.com/unificacion-monetaria/

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

CUBA’S LOOMING MONETARY REFORM SPARKS CONFUSION, INFLATION FEARS

By Sarah Marsh, Nelson Acosta

Reuters, December 2, 2021

Original Article: Cuba’s Looming Monetary Reform

HAVANA (Reuters) – A major monetary reform that will hike prices and state wages in Cuba starting on Friday is sparking widespread uncertainty as the Communist-run island resumes market-oriented changes to its Soviet-style economy after years of flip-flopping.  The reform, announced earlier this month by President Miguel Diaz-Canel, will eliminate a complex dual currency and multiple exchange rate system that masked a host of government subsidies, pegging the remaining peso currency at a single rate.

To reflect the resulting steep devaluation and reduced subsidies, Cuba is raising prices on goods and services ranging from transport to electricity at varying rates. It will also quintuple pensions and wages in the state sector, which employs around two-thirds of the working population, from the current low rates to better reflect the real value of labor.

The measures, which will accelerate the transition from late revolutionary leader Fidel Castro’s paternalistic model, will bring more transparency to the economy and should help raise competitiveness over time, economists say, albeit only if combined with other reforms. Yet the immediate impact of the changes remains a worrying puzzle to many Cubans already struggling to get by amidst the country’s worst economic crisis in decades, one that has spurred a partial dollarization of the cash-strapped, import-dependent economy.

Hours-long queues outside shops amid shortages of even the most basic goods have lengthened as some Cubans rush to buy what they can before the measures go into effect, the value of the dollar on the black market has risen and banks have been overwhelmed with queries.

Private businesses and foreign investors also are scrambling to gauge the impact on their operations and whether they can adjust prices and wages. “It’s going to be tight, so I’m just buying what I can now,” said Sulema Sotto Rojas, a 57-year-old cleaner for a state firm, as she waited in line to buy cooking oil and tomato sauce at one store after waking up eight hours earlier to queue at another for chicken.

While she could actually stand to gain from the monetary reform, her company has still not confirmed her new wage level and the government has been making last-minute tweaks to some electricity and gas rates in response to widespread consternation that they were too high.

INFLATION WORRIES

The reform is part of a package of measures Communist Party leader Raul Castro unveiled a decade ago to make the economy self-sufficient after decades of dependence on Soviet and then later Venezuelan aid in the face of domestic inefficiency and a crippling U.S. trade embargo.

The government had stalled or even backtracked on some of the changes due to opposition from entrenched bureaucratic and ideological interests, but a new generation of leaders headed by Diaz-Canel has opted to resume them amid the current crisis. That means, however, more short-term pain will be inflicted on an economy that already has shrunk 11% this year in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and the tightening of U.S. sanctions.

Many state companies working with an exchange rate of one peso to the dollar likely won’t be able to survive at the new rate of 24 to one. The government says it will give these enterprises a year to become competitive, subsidizing them in the meantime, though that could prove too little, especially given the feeble global economy and Cuba’s lack of capital to upgrade its creaking infrastructure.

“If the government had taken structural reforms to boost the agricultural, private and state sectors first, the economy would be in a much better condition to face this,” said Ricardo Torres, an economist with the Havana-based Center for the Study of the Cuban Economy.

The Communist Party has resisted such moves because doing so would reduce its political power, said Pedro Monreal, author of a popular blog on Cuban economics. Now it will have to pay the price, Monreal said, as a wage-fueled rise in demand for goods and services in the absence of an increase in supply will lead to inflation and further hardship in an economy with a flourishing black market.

“This is a purgative we need to take,” said Mauricio Alonso, who rents out rooms in his apartment in Havana. “Obviously it will generate inflation.”

BRAVE NEW WORLD

While Cubans are still struggling to figure out whether they will be better or worse off, one thing seems clear: those who have savings in a local currency or who work in the non-state sector, which will not automatically hike wages, stand to lose.

The government has set price caps on agricultural produce and said the fledgling private sector cannot raise prices more than threefold, with anything above that considered “abusive” and violators subject to fines.

Several business owners told Reuters they would need time to gauge the compensatory impact of smaller recent reforms, such as being able to import and export via state companies and to offset all costs against their taxes.

“There are many challenges at the same time,” said Liber Puente, the owner of a private tech firm, who hired a financial strategist to help him map a strategy. The entrepreneur, who wants to keep wages competitive vis-a-vis those in the state sector, said he would hold off on developing other projects until the dust settled, predicting six months of uncertainty.

One important unknown worrying all Cubans is the value of the greenback on the black market, as many basic items like shampoo and cheese can now only be purchased with dollars at special stores or with hard currency on the informal market supplied by “mules” from abroad.

The black market dollar rate has appreciated to around 1.5 times the official rate this year, given that it has become almost impossible for residents to acquire dollars through state financial institutions.

“Already prices are rising everywhere and not because of the currency reform, but because of the lack of dollars,” said Maykel Suarez, who owns a private cellphone repair shop.

The government says the controversial dollar stores, which were opened this year, are a temporary solution to its cash crunch. U.S. President-elect Joe Biden has said he will loosen the existing sanctions on Cuba, and Cuban officials expect tourism and trade to pick up slightly next year.

Havana has also tinkered with some other minor economic reforms over the past year, including allowing firms to retain a larger share of their export revenue rather than depend on the centralized allocation of hard currency.

Economists, though, are urging the government to quickly enact further-reaching structural reforms like the legalization of small and medium enterprises and the liberalization of the ailing farm sector to solve underlying problems.  “I just hope the measures that need to be taken in parallel to this (monetary reform) to increase production and services will be approved in a short time period,” said Omar Everleny, a Cuban economist.

Banco Central
Posted in Blog | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

HOW CUBA’S MONETARY REFORM WILL TAKE PLACE AND IMPACT THE ECONOMY

By Marc Frank

Reuters, December 11, 2020

Original Article: Cuba’s Monetary Reform

HAVANA (Reuters) – The Cuban government announced on Thursday it would start a long-awaited monetary reform in January, unifying its dual currency and multiple exchange rate system in a bid to bring more dynamism to its centrally planned economy.

The reforms were first adopted by the Communist Party a decade ago as it moved toward a more market driven system and closer links with the international economy but foundered thanks to bureaucracy and internal divisions.

HOW DOES CUBA’S MONETARY SYSTEM WORK?

For nearly three decades, two currencies have circulated in Cuba: the peso and the convertible peso (CUC), both officially valued at one-to-one with the dollar. Neither are tradable outside the country.  The currencies are exchanged at various rates: one-to-one for state-owned businesses, 24 pesos for 1 CUC for the public and others for joint ventures, wages in the island’s special development zone and transactions between farmers and hotels.  Cuba created the system as part of a package of measures to open up its economy after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

While the system helped Cuba get through the shock of the Soviet collapse, it ended up also hiding the real economic situation.

WHAT CHANGES NOW?

The CUC will be eliminated. President Miguel Diaz-Canel said it would leave the peso at a single fixed rate of 24 to the dollar, scrapping other more favorable rates in the first official devaluation of the peso since Cuba’s 1959 revolution.

GOODBYE CUC, HELLO DOLLAR!

The government has also begun opening stores that sell consumer goods for dollars and other traded currencies, though only with a bank card.

Havana says this is a temporary measure but the partial dollarization will also provide some stability, especially for families who receive remittances.

Meanwhile, state and private companies can now keep tradable currency accounts with up to 80% of their export earnings instead of handing them over to the state.

SHOCK THERAPY?

Devaluation is inflationary, while ending subsidies leads to layoffs, yet the Cuban government says it expects to avoid any “shock therapy” in the economy where the state sets most prices and wages.  Economists expect triple digit inflation, and the government has said the initial devaluation will be accompanied by a five-fold increase in average state wages and pensions even as many state-controlled prices also may rise.

But the wage increase does not apply to around 2 million of the 7 million plus labor force in the private sector, informal sector or who simply do not work.

Meanwhile the government says state-run companies, as a rule, will no longer be subsidized.

Cuban economists estimate around 40% of state companies operate at a loss and though some will benefit with the reform, others will go under. Still, the government says some companies will be given a year to get their books in order before ending subsidies.

The government says residents will be given 180 days to exchange convertible pesos once they are taken out of circulation.

WHY NOW?

Cuba is seeking to reverse its worst crisis since the fall of the Soviet Union, with growth seen plummeting more than 8% this year by boosting business conditions and productivity.

The country is dependent on imports for more than 50% of food and fuel, plus inputs for agriculture and pharmaceuticals. Yet a combination of U.S. sanctions, local economic blunders and the COVID-19 pandemic have gutted Cuba’s ability to earn tradable currency.

Cuba has been rapidly piling up debt in recent years, while still being plagued by a scarcity of basic goods, from food and personal hygiene products to medicine and fuel.

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

DAY ZERO FOR CURRENCY REFORM SET AMID WEEKS OF UNREST

CUBA TO BEGIN LONG-DELAYED MONETARY OVERHAUL ON NEW YEAR’S DAY

Ricardo Herrero

Cuban Study Group, 14 December 2020

“Cuba said late on Thursday it would start its long-awaited monetary reform in January, eliminating its dual currency and labyrinthine multiple exchange rate system in a bid to improve business conditions in the crisis-stricken economy. In a televised address to the nation, President Miguel Diaz-Canel said the Cuban peso would be fixed at a single exchange rate of 24 per dollar [24 CUP : 1 USD].” (Reuters, December 10, 2020)

For more than three decades, two currencies have circulated in Cuba’s state-run economy: the peso (CUP) and the convertible peso (CUC), pegged to the dollar. These have been exchanged at various rates: 1 to 1 for state-owned businesses, 24 pesos for 1 CUC for the public and others for joint ventures, wages in island’s special development zone and transactions between farmers and hotels.” (Reuters, December 10, 2020)

“The government has said some companies will be given a year to get their books in order before ending subsidies, and it will continue to provide universal and free healthcare and education, some subsidized food and other social gratuities. Cuban economists estimate around 40% of state companies operate at a loss and though some will benefit from the monetary reform, such as those tied to the export sector, others will fail. Some Cubans complain that multiple currencies will still be in use on the island given the government has been opening stores over the past year that sell consumer goods for dollars and other internationally traded currencies, though only with a bank card. The government says this is a temporary measure needed to earn tradable currency to purchase more consumer goods amid dire scarcity as it is all but bankrupt.” (Reuters, December 10, 2020)

Government raises minimum wage to 2,100 pesos and sets pensions cap at 1,528 pesos. “Cuba published the new scale for wages, pensions and social assistance benefits, as part of the monetary ordering process announced last night and which will be in force as of next January 1, determining the economic future of the island. As of that date, the minimum wage rises to 2,100 pesos per month, by public provision since yesterday in the Gaceta Oficial Extraordinaria No. 69. The wage scale is divided into 32 complexity groups, determined by the number of hours worked and the category of who performs them…The wage scales start at 1,910 and 2,100 pesos, for those who work 40 and 44 hours a week, respectively, and rise to 9,510 pesos for those who add 44 hours a week.” (OnCuba News, December 11, 2020)

 

ECONOMISTS EXPECT SURGING INFLATION; WORRY ARTIFICIAL EXCHANGE RATE WILL DRIVE BLACK MARKET FOR FOREIGN CURRENCY

 

“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.

 

 

 

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

CUBA URGES CALM AS OVERHAUL OF MONETARY SYSTEM LOOMS

Reuters, October 12, 2020

By Marc Frank

HAVANA (Reuters) – Cuba’s economy minister on Monday urged calm as the government prepares to unify its dual currency system and multiple exchange rates in hopes of improving economic performance.

The Caribbean island nation is undergoing a crisis caused by an onslaught of new U.S. sanctions on top of a decades-old embargo, the pandemic and its inefficient Soviet-style command economy.

Alejandro Gil, speaking during a prime-time broadcast on state-run television, said the country could not overcome the crisis without unification which he said included wage, pension and other measures to protect the population.

“It is a profound transformation that the economy needs that will impact companies and practically everyone,” Gil said.  “It is for the good of the economy and good of our people because it creates favorable economic conditions that will reverberate through more production, services and jobs,” he added.

The monetary reform, expected before the end of the year, will eliminate the convertible peso while leaving a devalued peso, officially exchanged since the 1959 Revolution at one peso to the dollar.  The soon to be removed convertible peso is also officially set at one to 10 pesos to the dollar for state companies and 24 pesos sell and 25 pesos buy with the population.

The government has stated numerous times that residents will be given ample time to exchange convertible pesos at the current rate once it is taken out of circulation and banks will automatically do the same with convertible peso accounts.  President Miguel Diaz-Canel said last week the country would end up with a single currency and exchange rate with the dollar but did not say what that rate might be or the date devaluation would happen.

Foreign and domestic economists forecast the move will cause triple digit inflation and bankruptcies while at the same time stimulating domestic economic efficiency and exports over imports.

The state controls the lion’s share of the economy and sets most wages and prices. Neither domestic currency is tradable outside Cuba.

“There will be no shock therapy here, the vulnerable will be protected. At the same time, it will favor motivation to work and the need to work to live,” Gil said.

Diaz-Canel announced in July that market-oriented reforms approved by the Communist party a decade ago and never implemented, including monetary measures, would be quickly put in place in response to the crisis. He said last week that monetary reform had now been approved by the all-powerful politburo.

Cuba, dependent on food, fuel and other imports has been caught short of cash as sanctions hit its foreign exchange revenues and the pandemic demolishes tourism and undermines remittances, creating food, medicine and other shortages.  Last year, the government began opening better stocked foreign exchange stores for people with access to dollars or a basket of other international currencies from remittances and other sources. However, all transactions must be electronic, for example through debit cards.

Foreign and local economists forecast economic activity will decline at least 8% this year, with trade down by around a third.

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Welcome to Queueba: WITH SHOP SHELVES BARE, CUBA MULLS ECONOMIC REFORMS

The government hints it may scrap its dotty dual-currency system

The Economist, Oct 10th 2020

Original Article: Cuba Mulls Economic Reforms

LONG QUEUES and empty shelves are old news in Cuba. Recently, though, the queues have become longer and the shelves emptier. Food is scarcer than it has been since the collapse in 1991 of the Soviet Union, which supported the island’s communist regime. Now shoppers queue twice: once for a number that gives them a time slot (often on the next day). They line up again to enter the store.

Once inside, they may find little worth buying. Basic goods are rationed (for sardines, the limit is four tins per customer). Shops use Portero (Doorman), an app created by the government, to scan customers’ identity cards. This ensures that they do not shop in one outlet too often. Eileen Sosin recently tried but failed to buy shampoo and hot dogs at a grocery store near her home in Havana. She was told that she could not return for a week.

Queues at grocery stores are short compared with those outside banks. They are a sign that, under pressure from food shortages and the pandemic, the government is moving closer towards enacting a reform that it has been contemplating for nearly two decades: the abolition of one of its two currencies. In July state media began telling Cubans that change was imminent. Cubans are eager to convert CUC, a convertible currency pegged to the American dollar, into pesos, which are expected to be the surviving currency. If they do not make the switch now, Cubans fear, they will get far fewer than 24 pesos per CUC, the official exchange rate for households and the self employed.

Cuba introduced the CUC in 1994, when it was reeling from the abrupt end of Soviet subsidies. The government hoped that it would curb a flight into dollars from pesos, whose worth plunged as prices rose.

The system created distortions that have become deeply entrenched. The two currencies are linked by a bewildering variety of exchange rates. Importers of essential goods, which are all state-owned, benefit from a rate of one peso per CUC. That lets them mask their own inefficiencies and obtain scarce dollars on favourable terms. This keeps imports cheap, when they are available at all. But it also discourages the production of domestic alternatives. Foreign-owned earners of hard currency, such as hotels, do not profit from the artificial gap between revenues and costs. That is because instead of paying workers directly they must give the money to a state employment agency, which in turn pays the employees one peso for every CUC (or dollar). The rule is, in effect, a massive tax on labour and on exports.

The dual-currency regime is an obstacle to local production of food, which already faces many. Farmers must sell the bulk of their output to the Acopio (purchasing agency) at prices set by the state. It gives them seeds, fertiliser and tools, but generally not enough to produce as much as their land will yield.

A farmer from Matanzas, east of Havana, recently complained on social media that the Acopio, which required him to provide 15,000lbs (6,800kg) of pineapples, neither transported them all the way to its processing facility nor paid him. Instead, they were left to rot. When the Acopio does manage to provide lorries, it often fails to deliver boxes in which to pack farmers’ produce. They can sell their surplus to the market, but it is rarely enough to provide a decent income. No wonder Cuba imports two-thirds of its food.

It is becoming more urgent to free the economy from such burdens. Although Cuba has done a good job of controlling covid-19, the pandemic has crushed tourism, a vital source of foreign exchange. The Trump administration, which imposes sanctions on Cuba in the hope that they will force the Communist Party out of power (and, perhaps more important, that they will please Cuban-American voters in Florida), recently tightened them. In September the State Department published a “Cuba prohibited accommodations list”, which blacklists 433 hotels controlled by the regime or “well-connected insiders”. Venezuela, Cuba’s ally, has cut back shipments of subsidised oil. The economy is expected to shrink by around 8% this year.

As it often does when times are tough, Cuba is improvising. To hoover up dollars from its citizens, since last year the government has opened many more convertible-currency shops. As these usually have the best selection of goods, demand for dollars has rocketed. Banks have none left. Cubans either get them from remittances, sent by relatives abroad, or on the black market, where the price can be double the official rate of one per CUC.

The government is now sending signals that it wants to scrap the economy-warping dual-currency regime. “We have to learn to live with fewer imports and more exports, promoting national production,” said the president, Miguel Díaz-Canel, in July.

But it has signalled before that such a reform was imminent only to decide against it. That is because the change, when it comes, will be painful. Importers with artificial profits may lay off workers en masse. If they have to pay more for their dollars, imports will become more expensive, sparking a rise in inflation. Pavel Vidal, a Cuban economist at the Pontifical Xavierian University in Cali, Colombia, expects the value of Cubans’ savings to drop by 40%. The government has said that it will raise salaries and pensions after a currency reform, but it has little cash to spare. This year’s budget deficit is expected to be close to 10% of GDP. That could rise when the government is forced to recognise costs now hidden by the twin-currency system.

The government may yet wait until it has built up bigger reserves of foreign exchange to help it cushion the shock. It may hope that Joe Biden will win the White House and reverse some of the sanctions imposed by the Trump administration. That would boost foreign earnings.

The economic crisis makes other reforms more necessary. Under Raúl Castro, who stepped down as president in 2018 (but still heads the Communist Party), a vibrant private sector started up. It has gained more freedoms, but at a slow pace.

The government has recently promised faster action. It said it would replace lists of the activities open to cuentapropistas, as Cuba’s entrepreneurs are called, with negative lists, which specify in which sectors they cannot operate. The new rules have yet to be published. The government recently let cuentapropistas import supplies through state agencies, but prices are prohibitive. In July it opened a wholesale market, where payment is in hard currencies. Firms that use it no longer have to buy from the same bare shops as ordinary citizens.

Cuentapropistas have been lobbying since 2017 for the right to incorporate, which would enable them to sign contracts and deal normally with banks, and to import inputs directly rather than through state agencies. The government has yet to allow this. Until it frees up enterprise, Cubans will go on forming long queues outside shops with empty shelves. ■

 

Street Vendor , 2015

State Food Distributer, 2015

State Vendor, ANAP (Asociacion Nacional de Agricultores Pequenos)

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

CUBA ON EDGE AS GOVERNMENT READIES LANDMARK CURRENCY DEVALUATION

Government is forced to act as it faces a dire shortage of dollars and collapse of tourism


Marc Frank
in Havana. Financial Times, September 30, 2020.

Original Article: Landmark Currency Devaluation

Cuba is stepping up plans to devalue the peso for the first time since the 1959 revolution, as a dire shortage of tradable currency sparks the gravest crisis in the communist-ruled island since the fall of the Soviet Union.

Two Cubans and a foreign businessman, all with knowledge of government plans, said the move to devalue the peso had been approved at the highest level. They said the devastating effect of the coronavirus pandemic on tourism, a fall in foreign earnings from the export of doctors and tougher US sanctions had created the worst cash crunch since the early 1990s, forcing the government to move forward with monetary and other reforms. The sources said preparations for the devaluation were well under way at state-run companies and they expected the measure before the end of the year. They asked not to be identified owing to the sensitivity of the subject.

The government declined to comment. Scarcity of basic goods and long queues at shops have been a feature of life in Cuba since the Trump administration pushed for tighter sanctions against the country in 2019. The shortages have been exacerbated by the pandemic because Cuba imports about 60 per cent of its food, fuel and inputs for sectors such as pharmaceuticals and agriculture.

The Cuban government has yet to provide any economic data this year but the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean predicts the economy will contract 8 per cent after a sluggish performance over the past four years. Most other foreign analysts say trade is down by at least a third. People queue to exchange money at a bank in Havana.

Cuba operates two currencies: the peso and the convertible peso. The government claims both are of equal value to the US dollar, but neither currency has any tradable value abroad and imported goods, when available, are priced with huge mark-ups when they are purchased in the domestic currencies. The Cuban public can buy the convertible peso for 24 pesos and sell it for 25 pesos, although the government sets different domestic exchange rates between the two currencies in some sectors, ranging from one peso to 10 pesos. For example, in the special economic zone at Mariel near Havana, one convertible peso is exchangeable for 10 pesos.

According to the sources and recent government statements, the peso will be devalued significantly from its current level on paper of one per dollar and the convertible peso will be eliminated. Economists have long argued that Cuba’s currency system is so unwieldy that it stymies the country’s exports, encourages imports and makes it difficult to analyse corporate profits. Cuba’s government has said it will respect the peso’s current rate for an unspecified period to allow people to exchange convertible pesos into pesos. It will convert bank accounts priced in convertible pesos. As monetary reform becomes a reality Cubans face a shortage of hard currency and will once again be allowed to make purchases in US dollars, though only with a bank card. This was last permitted in 2004.

It is legal in Cuba to own US dollars and other internationally tradable currencies, but until recently they were not deemed legal tender even when paying by card. There is a large black market in US dollars beyond the government’s reach in which the American currency has this year appreciated by more than 30 per cent when valued in the local currencies. According to the government there are now more than 120 official outlets which price goods in dollars, selling everything from food and hygiene products to domestic appliances, hardware and car parts, and the government plans to open more.

Many Cubans queue for hours outside dollar shops to obtain the products they sell. To do so, Cubans first need to open an account in which they can deposit cash or wire transfers in dollars or other hard currencies; they can then use a debit card to pay for goods in dollars. There are already more than a million dollar-denominated cards in circulation, according to local reports.

“Now, on top of everything else, I have to also worry about the value of my money and how to buy dollars on the informal market for the card because the state has none to exchange at the moment,” said Jenifer Torres in Havana, who said she had a good job but was supporting dependent parents at home.

Bert Hoffmann, a Latin America expert at the German Institute of Global and Area Studies, said: “Instead of monetary unification — for many years the government promise — Cuba is moving into an economy with two different monetary circuits.” These were “the dollarised debit card shops and the normal domestic economy, in which the Cuban peso will be under strong inflationary pressures”.

The Cuban economy is largely owned and run by the state, which sets exchange rates and many prices. As the cost of inputs increases due to the currency devaluation, state-run companies are likely to increase their prices — fuelling inflation. Alejandro Gil, economy and planning minister, said in July that the crisis was “exceptional” and announced the government would move towards market-orientated reforms and loosening of the Soviet-style central planning system.

Continue Reading

President Diaz-Canel

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

EL REGRESO DEL DÓLAR A CUBA DEBILITA EL CUC

En el mercado negro, donde se realizan las transacciones entre particulares, el dólar cotiza ahora en 1,13 CUC en lugar de 0,95

14YMEDIO / MARIO J. PENTÓN, La Habana/ Miami | Octubre 23, 2019

El simple anuncio por parte del Gobierno cubano de que el dólar y otras divisas tendrán curso legal en la Isla dentro de unos días ha provocado un desplome del valor del peso convertible (CUC).

En el mercado negro, donde se realizan las transacciones entre particulares, el valor del dólar se cotiza ahora en 1,13 CUC en lugar de 0,95, según la plataforma online Revolico y varias fuentes consultadas en La Habana. Últimamente, a raíz de una mayor demanda provocada por los aumentos salariales, los cambistas pedían entre 1 y 1,05 CUC por dólar.

En las casas de cambio oficiales, las Cadeca, la cotización no se ha movido de 0,87 dólar por 1 CUC porque se trata de un mercado controlado por el Estado, a diferencia del mercado paralelo. donde rige la ley de la oferta y de la demanda. El Estado castiga la divisa estadounidense con un impuesto del 10% y una comisión del 3%, Además, las Cadeca no venden dólares, solo los compran.

“La gente está buscando la seguridad del dólar porque no ve claros los pasos del Gobierno con la economía”, dice vía telefónica Mongui, un cambista que trabaja en las cercanías del hotel San Carlos, en Cienfuegos.

Mongui pide 1,13 CUC por dólar, pero cuando el cliente compra más de 1.000 dólares le hace una rebaja y se lo vende por 1,08. “Ya tengo mi clientela fija, gente que va de mula a Panamá, Cancún y otros lugares. Ahora hay mucho nerviosismo porque el Gobierno le quiere quitar el negocio a las mulas“, agrega.

María Luisa, de 69 años, recibe unos 100 dólares mensuales que le envía su hijo desde Florida y cree que el incremento del valor de esa moneda debió haberse producido hace mucho.

“¿En qué cabeza cabe que el CUC valga más que el dólar, la divisa más fuerte del mundo? Fidel quitó los dólares de la circulación y a cambio nos entregó papelitos. Ahora quieren quitarnos nuevamente los dólares y darnos un número en una tarjeta magnética. Ellos siempre se quedan con lo mejor”, protesta.

María Luisa ha pedido a su hijo que le envíe las remesas en dólares y que para ello deje de utilizar Western Union, que convierte automáticamente las remesas en CUC a un tasa de 0,95 por cada dólar. “Prefiero que me mande el dinero con gente que viene de Miami. Así me rinde más. Lo cambio por fuera de Cadeca. Para ellos puede que sea un peso, pero aquí son 25”, dice la jubilada, que cobra 310 pesos de pensión.

Los dólares no servirán para pagar en efectivo, sino con tarjetas de débito en las 77 tiendas estatales donde se comercializarán productos importados, sobre todo electrodomésticos, motos eléctricas o repuestos para automóviles.

El anuncio no ha sido bien recibido por los clientes que tenían una tarjeta asociada a cuentas en pesos convertibles o pesos cubanos. “Ahora tengo que sacarme otra tarjeta porque la que tengo es de mi cuenta en chavitos (CUC) no me sirve”, lamentaba este lunes Rogelio, un jubilado que recibe remesas de sus dos hijos emigrados.

Los bancos amanecieron este lunes con largas colas en La Habana de clientes interesados en contratar la nueva tarjeta magnética con saldo en divisas. Ahí estaba Rogelio, delante de la sucursal del Banco Metropolitano, en los bajos del Ministerio de Transporte, para comenzar el proceso de apertura de la cuenta y la solicitud de la tarjeta. “Lo bueno es que no se necesita saldo alguno para abrir la cuenta pero lo malo es que esto de pagar con tarjeta es muy complicado en las tiendas”, explica a 14ymedio.

Los constantes cuelgues del sistema de comunicación entre los mercados estatales y los bancos convierten la experiencia de pagar con tarjeta en un dolor de cabeza. Los terminales de pago, conocidos como POS, se quedan con frecuencia sin servicio y sin conexión y los empleados no pueden procesar el pago por esa vía.

“Cuando uno va a una tienda y va a pagar con tarjeta toda la cola te mira con mala cara, porque saben que te vas a demorar bastante, entre una prueba y otra para lograr comunicarse con el banco”, explica Yusimí, una habanera que este lunes también fue de las primeras en solicitar la nueva tarjeta bancaria.

“Hace unos pocos años se estaba hablando con mucha fuerza de que estaba al doblar de la esquina la unificación monetaria, pero ahora resulta que se agrega otra moneda. Esto no hay quien lo entienda”, se queja Nelson, contable en una empresa estatal donde ha tenido que lidiar con las distorsiones que provoca la dualidad financiera.

El economista Pavel Vidal, que fue funcionario del Banco Central de Cuba durante varios años, considera que el regreso del dólar a la economía nacional dará “algún alivio rápido a los crecientes desbalances financieros que se vienen acumulando desde 2015”.

En una columna publicada en OnCuba, Vidal considera que en el corto plazo se observarán “efectos positivos” por estas medidas, como una mayor liquidez en divisas en los bancos y “mayores opciones de compra en mercados formales”. Sin embargo, el ahora profesor de la Universidad Javeriana de Cali (Colombia) considera que el regreso del dólar implica la pérdida de la autonomía monetaria y retrasa la salida de la dualidad monetaria peso/CUC.

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

RE-DOLLARIZATION OF THE CUBAN ECONOMY !! ??

“Autorizar operaciones con divisas en algunos mercados de consumo y en algunas industrias es abrir la caja de Pandora a una redolarización acelerada del resto de la economía”, sostiene el economista Pavel Vidal

Agencias, Madrid | 24/10/2019 9:20 am

Los cubanos pueden desde esta semana abrir cuentas en dólares en bancos locales para adquirir electrodomésticos, motos eléctricas, e incluso encargar equipos específicos, con cargo a su tarjeta de débito, informa la AFP.

El gobierno los comercializará y busca así recaudar divisas, tratando de sortear el embargo que le aplica Estados Unidos desde 1962. A continuación, algunas claves para entender las medidas:

¿En qué consisten?

Se habilitará a finales de mes una red de tiendas estatales para la venta en dólares y otras divisas extranjeras de productos de fuerte demanda de importación, como equipos eléctricos, electrodomésticos de alta gama, autopartes y ciclomotores.

El pago se realizará con tarjetas de débito que podrán recibir transferencias desde el exterior o de otras cuentas (en dólares y en otras divisas), libre de impuestos.

También podrán importar algunos bienes específicos a través de empresas estatales (bajo la misma modalidad de la cuenta bancaria), sin depender de la caja central estatal.

¿Qué se busca?

El gobierno busca captar divisas, en momentos en que el gobierno de Donald Trump arrecia el embargo, con medidas que afectan al turismo, las inversiones, el envío de remesas y la importación de combustible.

“El país necesita divisas para financiar” su “desarrollo económico y social” explicó el ministro de Economía, Alejandro Gil.

Cuba, gobernada por el Partido Comunista (PCC, único), busca evitar la fuga de cientos de millones de dólares, debido a las crecientes importaciones particulares.

Según la consultora privada Auge, solo en la Zona Libre de Colón (Panamá) los cubanos gastaron este año un promedio de “20 millones de dólares mensualmente”.

Con el dinero recaudado, el gobierno podría hacer frente a la falta de liquidez de su sistema económico, pagar a tiempo a sus proveedores y adquirir insumos que necesita el país.

¿Cómo se beneficia el gobierno y el ciudadano?

“Es previsible que en el corto plazo se observen efectos positivos”, pronostica el economista cubano Pavel Vidal, de la Universidad Javeriana de Cali.

Los bancos estatales podrán fortalecer su liquidez en dólares y otras monedas extranjeras, y el gobierno garantizar una oferta de productos deficitarios en la red minorista, sin tener que emplear las divisas que destina a gastos prioritarios.

Por su parte, los cubanos tendrán acceso a productos que hasta ahora sólo podían adquirir en mercados informales y a precios competitivos, mientras que el sector privado local (13 % de la economía), gastará menos en viajes para abastecerse de insumos.

¿Se dolarizará la economía?

Gil niega que la venta interna en divisas conduzca a la dolarización de Cuba, que ya apeló a la moneda estadounidense entre 1993 y 2004 para sortear la grave crisis económica de los años 90.

Según el ministro, las dos monedas nacionales: el peso cubano (CUP) y el peso convertible (CUC, equivalente a 24 pesos cubanos) siguen circulando, y el comercio en dólares se realizará solo por vía electrónica.

Pero los economistas destacan que el proceso de dolarización no depende del soporte empleado, sino de que el dólar suplante en algunas funciones a las monedas domésticas.

“Autorizar operaciones con divisas en algunos mercados de consumo y en algunas industrias es abrir la caja de Pandora a una redolarización acelerada del resto de la economía”, sostiene Vidal.

¿Y la unificación monetaria?

Gil subrayó que las medidas no detendrán el proceso de unificación de las dos monedas nacionales, previsto desde 2013, sino que pondrán al país en “mejores condiciones” para alcanzar esa meta, con una industria y un comercio minorista fortalecidos.

La doble moneda está acompañada de tasas preferenciales de cambio para el sector estatal, lo que distorsiona la economía.

Vidal advierte que, lejos de solucionar “el (actual) complejo y distorsionante sistema de múltiples tipos de cambio y dualidad monetaria”, las nuevas medidas ahora “llevan a la economía a operar no con dos, sino con tres monedas”.

“La redolarización anunciada cancela la unificación de las monedas”, considera.

 

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , | Leave a comment