DOCUMENTO DE TRABAJO 2/2021, 5 DE FEBRERO DE 2021, REAL INSTITUTO ELCANO
DOCUMENTO DE TRABAJO 2/2021, 5 DE FEBRERO DE 2021, REAL INSTITUTO ELCANO
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?
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/
Reuters, December 2, 2021
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.