Tag Archives: Macroeconomy


By Marc Frank

Reuters, October 20, 2021

Original Article: Cuba, Paris Club Reach Deal to Skip 2021 Debt Payment

HAVANA, Oct 20 (Reuters) – Cuba has reached a deal with the Paris Club of creditor nations to postpone an annual debt payment due in November until next year, according to diplomats from five of the governments involved, the latest sign the Communist-run country is suffering a grave foreign exchange crisis.

The historic 2015 Paris Club agreement with Havana forgave $8.5 billion of $11.1 billion in sovereign debt Cuba defaulted on in 1986, plus charges. Cuba agreed to repay the remainder in annual installments through 2033, but only partially met its obligations in 2019 and defaulted last year.

The outlines of an amended deal, worked out between the parties in June and not previously reported, calls for resumption of payments in 2022 and adjustment of the payment schedule, the diplomats said, requesting anonymity to comment.

The Cuban government and Paris Club had no comment on the matter.

The parties in June said in a statement that “this agreement provides more time to the Republic of Cuba to honor several payments due under the 2015 Arrangement, while maintaining the present value of these amounts.”

Banco Central de Cuba

Cuba has now fallen behind by around $200 million on payments, including this year, the diplomats estimated.

It is not clear if penalties will apply as the pandemic crunch has led lenders to waive fees on other debtor nations.  Cuba said this week it had vaccinated 99.2% of its population with at least one dose of its locally developed COVID-19 vaccines, and plans to reopen its borders to international tourism by mid-November after nearly two years of coronavirus-induced stagnation.

The Caribbean island nation depends heavily on tourism to inject much-needed foreign exchange into its otherwise inefficient state-run economy, and for the cash it needs to repay lenders.

“I expect a fairly robust return of tourists impacting other activities and that should improve the outlook somewhat for payment in 2022,” one of the diplomats said.

Over the last decade, Cuba also restructured debt with Russia, China, Germany, Mexico and Japanese commercial debt holders.

“Its my understanding most of those payments are also on hold,” another diplomat said, with a colleague seconding that view.

Harsh U.S. sanctions on vital foreign exchange earners such as tourism, remittances and foreign investment, many implemented under then-U.S. President Donald Trump and maintained under his successor, Joe Biden, also complicate inflows.

Foreign exchange revenues fell by some $4 billion beginning in 2020 and the import of basic goods and inputs for agriculture and production in general plunged nearly 40% as a result, the government reported.

The economy contracted 10.9% last year and another 2% through June, compared with the same period in 2020, resulting in shortages of food, medicine and other basic goods.  The government this year predicts the economy to grow 2%, just barely beginning to recoup last year’s downturn.

Under the original Paris Club agreement, seen by Reuters, interest was forgiven through 2020, and after that was just 1.5% of the total debt still due. Some of that money due was allocated to funds for investments in Cuba.  The diplomats who spoke to Reuters said they did not expect any significant changes to that portion of the agreement.

Cuba last reported foreign debt of $18.5 billion in 2018, and experts believe it has risen since then, especially to suppliers and investment partners who reported serious payment issues as early as 2018. The country is not a member of the International Monetary Fund or the World Bank.

The Cuba group of the 22-member Paris Club comprises Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Britain, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

The Vault, Banco Central de Cuba
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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.


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.”


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.

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By Sarah Marsh

Reuters December 17, 2020

Original Article: Cuba Says Economy Shrank

HAVANA, Dec 17 (Reuters) – Cuba’s already cash-strapped economy shrank 11% in 2020 due to the pandemic and tougher U.S. sanctions but the government thwarted attempts by anti-communists to exploit this momentary weakness in a bid to topple it, President Miguel Diaz-Canel said on Thursday.

Addressing a year-end session of the Communist-run country’s parliament, Diaz-Canel celebrated Cuba’s successful management of its coronavirus outbreak despite “exceptional economic conditions” and predicted 6% to 7% economic growth next year.

Yet the government’s estimate for this year’s contraction was even more dire than that of the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, which this week predicted an 8.5% contraction for Cuba compared to a 7.7% regional decline.

Cuba received just 55% of the hard currency it had planned this year, Economy Minister Alejandro Gil told the assembly earlier in the day. Gil did not provide data on the debt, trade or current account but earlier this week had told a parliament commission that imports were down 30% compared to last year.

Cuba imports more than 50% of its fuel, food and many other vital inputs and this decline, coming on top of a 15% drop in 2019, has resulted in a scarcity and long lines for even the most basic products, from food and medicine to fuel.

Diaz-Canel said the government had thwarted attempts by anti-communists to capitalize on this moment of economic weakness to “destroy” the Cuban leftist revolution.

Over the past three weeks, state-run media have run shows on what they say are attempts directed and financed from the United States to create unrest on the island, like attacks on state shops and a hunger strike by an artists collective.

“New provocations are on the way and we will vanquish those too,” the president said.

Critics say the government is trying to undermine legitimate discontent among some Cubans and requests for greater civil liberties underscored by a rare rights protest by artists outside the culture ministry late last month.

Diaz-Canel warned on Thursday of “wolves in sheep’s clothing” and said attempts at non conventional warfare and a soft coup by the “industry of counterrevolution” would fail.

Nothing, he said, should distract the country from its “most complex task” of recent decades, pointing to the monetary reform taking place from January including a steep devaluation in bid to revitalise the economy.

Earlier in the day, Gil said a gradual recovery would begin in 2021, based mainly on that reform and a 50% increase in tourist arrivals to 2.2 million in 2021, compared with more than 4 million in 2019.

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden has also promised to unravel some of President Donald Trump’s sanctions on Cuba aimed at forcing political reform such as restrictions on travel and remittances.

Diaz-Canel said the Trump administration’s attempts had “roundly and notoriously failed”. However, the government remained open to improving relations with the United States, he said, without explicitly referring to the incoming Biden administration. (Reporting by Sarah Marsh; Additional reporting by Marc Frank and Nelson Acosta; Editing by Bernadette Baum & Shri Navaratnam)

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Carmelo Mesa-Lago (University of Pittsburgh) and Jan Svejnar (Columbia University)

Florida International University, School of Public and International Affairs, October 2020.

A definitive 2020 analysis of Cuba’s current economic situation.

Full document available here: The Cuban Economic Crisis: Its Causes and Possible Policies for the Transition



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Por Pável Vidal,  economista cubano y profesor de la Universidad Javeriana en Cali, en Colombia
IPS Inter Press Service, 6 de enero de 2017

CALI, Colombia, 30 dic 2016 (IPS) – Los datos macroeconómicos de cierre del año proporcionados por el gobierno cubano confirman las proyecciones de que Cuba entraría en una recesión como resultado del shock venezolano.

La producción de bienes y servicios en 2016 cayó  0,9 por ciento. Esta es la primera recesión económica desde el año 1993, en que el producto interno bruto (PIB) se hundió  15 por ciento tras la desaparición de la Unión Soviética.

Desde finales de 2014, tras la dramática caída del precio del petróleo y la consecuente crisis de la economía venezolana, la recesión cubana era altamente probable, si además sumamos una respuesta de la política económica cubana insuficiente ante la magnitud del shock que se avecinaba.

Las relaciones con Venezuela están formadas bajo acuerdos muy singulares entre ambos gobiernos, con precios y facilidades financieras que se alejan de las prácticas más habituales en el comercio internacional.

Por tanto, no se trata simplemente de buscar nuevos mercados para el comercio que ya no se puede realizar con Venezuela, sino que hay que hacerlo de una manera diferente e impulsando nuevos sectores económicos, dado que parece bastante improbable alguien más reciba los médicos cubanos y nos venda petróleo bajo las mismas condiciones.

Por eso era tan importante comenzar cuanto antes la diversificación de las relaciones internacionales y la liberalización de las capacidades internas en búsqueda de un incremento de la productividad y mayor eficiencia en la producción nacional. La atracción a gran escala de inversión extranjera, la devaluación de la tasa de cambio oficial y la convergencia monetaria, una reforma más profunda de la empresa estatal y la ampliación de los espacios al sector privado y las cooperativas, eran algunos de los pasos que parecían factibles y coherentes con las reformas ya iniciadas.

¿Por qué no se dieron algunos o todos estos pasos? Pueden esgrimirse múltiples explicaciones.

Porque no hay claridad o convencimiento de hacia dónde dirigir el modelo económico cubano. Porque las fuerzas de resistencia a los cambios han ganado por ahora la partida. Porque las necesidades de tantos cambios sobrepasan la capacidad institucional y técnica para administrarlos todos al mismo tiempo. Porque el embargo estadounidense sigue impidiendo la llegada de inversionistas extranjeros institucionales. Porque de verdad se cree que una reforma muy lenta y haciendo experimentos es la única vía efectiva. Y seguramente se podrían añadir algunas otras explicaciones.

Por la razón que sea, el resultado final es que las reformas han perdido velocidad en vez de apresurarse, y transcurridos 10 años, no hay resultados muy alentadores cuando se examina la productividad, el salario medio o un sector específico como la agricultura.

Los anuncios de nuevas transformaciones son cada vez más dilatados. Cuba parece vivir en una dimensión del tiempo diferente, es como si un año de Cuba equivale a un mes en el resto del planeta.

Sin embargo, el espacio en el que opera la economía no está aislado, compite con otros destinos para los capitales internacionales, se rezaga tecnológicamente, pierde peso relativo en la región, y sufre los ciclos de los mercados internacionales y las crisis de sus principales aliados económicos.

Las perspectivas para 2017 y el rol de los bonos públicos

Para el año 2017 el gobierno planifica una mejoría en la situación de la economía, algo que es contrario a las proyecciones que habíamos efectuados.  El gobierno planifica un aumento de dos por ciento del PIB.

Este aumento del PIB para 2017 está sustentado en dos factores esenciales. Uno, la esperanza que mejore la situación de la economía venezolana tras los últimos aumentos del precio del barril de petróleo; y dos, el gobierno cubano pone en práctica una política fiscal expansiva anticíclica.

En su discurso en la Asamblea Nacional el 27 de diciembre,  el ministro de Economía y Planificación, Ricardo Cabrisas, plantea que: “Las proyecciones de los portadores energéticos para el venidero año permiten respaldar niveles similares a los del 2016…”

Muy probablemente esta perspectiva tiene como punto de partida el incremento que ha presentado el precio del barril de petróleo durante los últimos tres trimestres y algunas proyecciones internacionales que lo sitúan en mayores niveles para el año 2017, lo cual favorece el desempeño de la economía venezolana y abre la posibilidad de que se estabilizarán los envíos de petróleos a la isla y los pagos de los servicios médicos cubanos.

Por otra parte, se proyecta un incremento del gasto público y del déficit fiscal para respaldar el aumento del PIB. Se proyecta un aumento de 11 por ciento en los gastos fiscales, pero que no podrá ser cubierto por los ingresos fiscales, por lo que generará un “hueco fiscal” de 11.500 millones de pesos en el año 2017, lo que representa un valor equivalente a 12 por ciento del PIB.

En términos porcentuales es el déficit fiscal más alto desde 1993; en valores más que duplica el déficit del año 1993 que fue de 5.000 millones de pesos.

Es propicio que después de años de austeridad fiscal el gobierno decida expandir el gasto público para amortiguar el efecto recesivo de la crisis venezolana. Es válido aplicar una política fiscal expansiva en momentos de caída del PIB.

También es atinado financiar el déficit fiscal con emisión de bonos públicos, lo cuales comprarán los bancos estatales cubanos. Este es un nuevo instrumento que desde hace dos años viene estrenando el Ministerio de Finanzas y Precios con vistas a evitar la monetización (impresión de nuevo dinero) como mecanismo de financiación del déficit fiscal.

Tal mecanismo de financiación fiscal tiende a acercarse a las prácticas internacionales, y tiene como principal ventaja que evita un incremento de la cantidad primaria de dinero, con lo cual reduce las presiones inflacionarias.

¿Dónde están los riesgos de la política fiscal expansiva y la emisión de bonos?

Primero, el déficit fiscal puede crecer en épocas de crisis, pero no debe hacerlo de manera desmesurada ni mantenerse alto indefinidamente. Está bien aplicar una política fiscal anticíclica, pero tener un hueco fiscal de 12 por ciento del PIB en 2017 trae dudas sobre la sostenibilidad financiera de todo el mecanismo de financiación que se está poniendo en práctica. Para tener un punto de comparación, se espera que los países conserven, en promedio de varios años, un déficit fiscal menor de tres por ciento del PIB.

Se debe tomar en cuenta que los propios inversionistas extranjeros, prestamistas y proveedores internacionales, serán los primeros que estarán mirando este indicador de equilibrio fiscal. A nivel internacional este es uno de los principales indicadores que se toman en cuenta para evaluar la prudencia de la política económica y que define el riesgo financiero del país.

Segundo, la emisión de bonos públicos reduce los efectos inflacionarios pero no los elimina del todo. Expandir el gasto fiscal en 11.500 millones de pesos por encima de los ingresos sí puede presionar al aumento de los precios dada la ampliación desproporcionada que está activando en la demanda de bienes y servicios.

Tercero, Cuba no cuenta con una regla fiscal que organice y ponga límites al equilibrio fiscal de largo plazo (como tienen otros países en la región), sino que depende de la discrecionalidad del gobierno cada año. Es decir, no sabemos qué va a suceder con los déficits fiscales en el futuro. No tenemos seguridad de que los bonos que se están emitiendo y los próximos que se emitirán serán manejados adecuadamente con el fin de garantizar la sostenibilidad de todo el mecanismo.

Se debe tomar en cuenta que los bancos están empleando los ahorros de las familias para comprar los bonos públicos, por tanto, el gobierno tiene la responsabilidad de obtener ingresos fiscales futuros y equilibrar las cuentas públicas para cumplir sus compromisos con los bancos y, en última instancia, con los ahorradores.

Para tener una idea de la magnitud del déficit y de la emisión resultante de bonos públicos, observemos que en el año 2015 el ahorro de las familias en los bancos sumaba 23.680 millones de pesos cubanos.

Por ende, el déficit fiscal presupuestado para el año 2017 equivale a 48 por ciento del valor de las cuentas de ahorros de las familias. Los bancos, ciertamente tienen también depósitos de las empresas y su propio capital. Aun así, esta proporción de 48 por ciento llama la atención sobre el poco espacio de financiación que a futuro tendría el MFP para soportar elevados déficits fiscales.

En resumen, el crecimiento proyectado de dos por ciento para el año 2017 en la economía cubana depende de una situación que sigue siendo incierta para la economía venezolana, a pesar del aumento del precio del petróleo. Además, viene acompañado de una política fiscal expansiva que de ser bien empleada puede ayudar a manejar la crisis, pero en caso contrario, tendría consecuencias desastrosas para la estabilidad monetaria y financiera del país.

La activación de una política fiscal anticíclica y la emisión de bonos públicos es acertada, pero parece exagerado un déficit fiscal que equivale a 12 por ciento del PIB y a 48 por ciento del ahorro de las familias en los bancos.

No habría posibilidades de repetir la expansión fiscal en el año 2018, más bien será indispensable realizar un ajuste fiscal que disminuya significativamente el déficit en los próximos años.

Por tanto, el gobierno solo está ganando un año de tiempo, en el cual deberá aplicar algunas de las reformas estructurales pendientes y necesarias para sacar en firme a la economía de la recesión.

Pavel Vidal

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VENEZUELA’S ECONOMIC WOES SEND A CHILL OVER CLOSEST ALLY CUBA: Warnings of rationing revive memories of post-Soviet austerity in Havana

Financial Times, July 25, 2016

Marc Frank in Havana

The crisis in Venezuela has spread to its closest ally Cuba, with Havana warning of power rationing and other shortages that some fear could mark a return to the economic austerity that traumatised the island nation after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Only a year after the euphoria that followed the re-establishment of diplomatic relations with the US, hopes of an economic rebound in Cuba have faded and an undercurrent of concern and frustration is evident on the streets of the capital.

“Just when we thought we were going forward, everything is slipping away again,” says Havana retiree Miriam Calabasa. “I am worried people are going to decide enough is enough: then what?”

Government offices now close early, with open windows and whirring fans in lieu of air-conditioners. Already scant public lighting has been reduced further, and traffic in Havana and other cities is down noticeably.

“Nothing will get better any time soon; it can only get worse,” worries Ignacio Perez, a mechanic. “The roads won’t be paved, schools painted, the rubbish picked up, public transportation improved, and on and on.”

President Raúl Castro outlined the scale of the problem this month, telling the National Assembly that “all but essential spending” must cease. He blamed “limits facing some of our principal commercial partners due to the fall in oil prices … and a certain contraction in the supply of oil contracted with Venezuela.”

Fuel consumption has been cut 28 per cent between now and December, electricity by a similar amount and imports by 15 per cent, or $2.5bn, in a centralised economy where 17 cents of every dollar of economic output consists of imports.

But crippling shortages, rampant inflation and an economy that is expected to shrink 10 per cent this year have forced Venezuela’s president Nicolás Maduro to cut back. According to internal data from state oil company PDVSA seen by Reuters, oil deliveries to Cuba are down a fifth on last year.

Venezuela has for 15 years supplied unspecified amounts of cash and about 90,000 barrels per day of oil — half of Cuba’s energy needs. Havana in return sold medical and other professional services to Caracas. Venezuelan aid helped to lift Cuba out of an economic black hole after Soviet subsidies ended in 1991.

“Under current conditions, [Cuban] gross domestic product will dip into negative territory this year and decline 2.9 per cent in 2017,” says Pavel Vidal, a former Cuban central bank employee who is now a professor at Colombia’s Pontificia Universidad Javeriana Cali. “If relations with Venezuela fall apart completely, GDP could decline 10 per cent.”

Although Venezuelan aid is a fraction of Soviet help, mention of the “special period” that followed the fall of the Berlin Wall provokes traumatic memories in Cuba, with many remembering shortages so severe they ate street cats. Karina Marrón, deputy director of the official Granma newspaper, this month warned of possible street protests similar to 1994.

“A perfect storm is brewing … this phenomenon of a cut in fuel, a cut in energy,” Ms Marrón told the Union of Cuban Journalists. “This country can’t withstand another ’93, another ’94.”

So-called rapid response brigades, formed in the 1990s to quell social unrest, are back on alert, according to one brigade member who asked not to be named.

For Mr Castro, the slowdown is a serious blow to the limited market-orientated reforms begun under his leadership, especially the long-planned liberalisation of the peso, which requires a comfortable foreign reserve cushion.

But foreign businesses hope it may speed economic opening. “Venezuela’s problems increase the chance of Cuban reforms. This government only acts when it has to,” says one Spanish investor on the island.

One complication lies in how the government apportions resources.  Cuba relies heavily on tourists, most of whom expect hotels with electricity and air-conditioning. Meanwhile, some 500,000 people, or 10 per cent of Cuba’s workforce, are employed at restaurants, lodging houses and other recently allowed private businesses which need power to ply their trade.

Mr Castro insists residential users will be spared power cuts, for now, while Marino Murillo, who heads the reform commission of the ruling Communist party, says hard currency earning sectors such as tourism and nickel would be spared.

Another problem is that the other countries Cuba exports medical services to, such as Algeria, Angola and Brazil, are also expected to reduce spending. In 2014, medical services earned Cuba about $8bn, or 40 per cent of exports.

“We cannot deny there will be some impact, including worse than currently, but we are prepared,” Mr Castro has said.

Analysts suggest Mr Castro’s warning may in part serve to deflate expectations following the easing of US sanctions. Certainly, a full return to special period-style austerity looks unlikely as Cuba has more diversified income streams, from increased remittances, medical services, tourism to a nascent private sector.

However, “a majority [in Cuba] are still very dependent on state salaries that are now worth a third of what they were in 1989 in real terms”, said Prof Vidal. “[They] are in a situation of extreme vulnerability.”

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The Institutional Structure of Production in the Cuban Economy

Ernesto Hernández-Catá;  January, 2014

The complete essay is here: STRUCTURE OF GDP, 2014. Hernandez-Cata

 This paper presents estimates of Cuba’s gross domestic product (GDP) for the three principal sector of the economy: the government, the state enterprises, and the non-state sector. It estimates government GDP on the basis of fiscal data and derives non-state GDP from a combination of employment and productivity data. The article finds that the pronounced tendency for government output to increase faster than GDP was interrupted in 2010 and as the share of non-state production increased sharply. Nevertheless, the private share in the economy remains very low by international standards, and particularly in comparison to most countries in transition. The paper also derives estimates for gross national income. It finds that income is lower than GDP in the general government sector because of interest payments on Cuba’s external debt, while it exceeds production in the non-state sector owing to remittances from Cubans residing abroad.

New Picture (1)New PictureConclusion

 The various estimates presented in this paper make it possible to reach a number of tentative conclusions.

 ü  The government share of GDP fell during the post-Soviet recession but then increased steadily all the way to 2009. The increase reflected the growth of current government expenditure; government investment—which accounts for the bulk of economy-wide capital formation—fell in percent of GDP. Total investment by all sectors also fell, to a very low level compared with the averages for other country groups and particularly for the emerging market and transition countries. The share of government spending declined from 2010 to 2011 following the financial crisis of 2008.

 ü  The share of the non-state sector GDP rose in the period 1993-1999 from a very low level in the Soviet-dominated period of the 1980’s. It changed little in the first decade of the XXIst century, but surged in 2011-2012 reflecting a transfer of employees form the state sector. Nevertheless, the non-state and private sector shares of the economy remains very small by international standards and notably by the standards of the countries in transition.

 ü  The relative importance of the state enterprises appears to have declined all the way from 1995 to 2009, but it has recovered somewhat since then.

 ü  National income in the government sector is lower than GDP because of interest payments on the external debt and, apparently, because of official transfers to foreigners.

 ü   By contrast, income in the non-state sector exceeds GDP by a growing margin, essentially because of dollar remittances from Cuban-Americans abroad. Thus, in that sector income from domestic production is being increasingly supplemented by income from abroad.

 ü  There is a statistically significant tendency for government current spending to crowd out the output of the state enterprises. Non-state output, on the other hand, appears to evolve mainly in response to official decisions to liberalize or to repress the non-state sector

 Finally, there is a major problem whose resolution is beyond the scope of this article but which must at least be noted. The Cuban authorities assume that data for transactions denominated in foreign currency should be translated into local currency at the fixed exchange rate of one peso (CUP) per U.S. dollar. Under this convention (which is retained in this paper) dollar values are identical to peso values. Historically, however, the exchange value of the peso applicable to households and tourists has been much lower and it is currently CUP 24 per dollar.  Clearly, the 1:1 exchange rate assumption introduces major distortions in the national accounts and in the balance of payments. For example, the peso value of exports of at least some goods and services (nickel, sugar and tourism among others) is grossly under estimated, while the dollar value of consumption is grossly over-estimated. In the income accounts, the dollar value of wages (mostly denominated in CUPs) is overestimated while the peso value of private remittances is under-estimated—although this is partly offset by an under-estimation of the peso value of interest payments abroad.

 The task of disentangling all the elements of bias introduced by the use of a 1:1 conversion factor would be daunting. For the time being the corresponding distortions would have to be accepted, although they should be recognized. The good news is that the Cuban authorities are in the process of unifying the existing multiple exchange rate system, too slowly hélàs, but fairly surely. One important result of this change will be to the adoption of a single exchange rate for all transactions and all sectors, as well as for the purpose of statistical conversion.

Ernesto-Hernandez-CataErnesto Hernández-Catá

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Proyecciones macroeconómicas de una Cuba sin Venezuela

Pavel Vidal Alejandro

from the  Cuba Study Group, Desde la Isla; original source:  full article

Análisis de Pavel Vidal acerca del impacto a la economía cubana en el supuesto caso de una reducción importante en la cooperación económica con Venezuela.

New PictureDesde inicios de la década pasada la economía cubana ha venido incrementando sistemáticamente sus relaciones con Venezuela. Actualmente el comercio de bienes representa el 40% del intercambio total de la isla, muy por encima del segundo lugar ocupado por China con 12,5%. En este porcentaje pesa sobre todo la importación de petróleo venezolano; en 2011 la factura llegó a US$2.759 millones. La importación del crudo venezolano cubre el 60% de la demanda nacional y además permite la reexportación de una parte del mismo. Solo el 50% del pago de las importaciones de crudo venezolan se efectúa dentro de los primeros 90 días, el restante 50% se acumula en una deuda a pagarse en 25 años con un tipo de interés del 1% anual.

 Continue reading: Vidal,  Cuba sin Venezuela

New Picture (11)

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Eliminating Dual Currencies in Cuba: Measured, but Necessary Risk

By Emilio Morales and translated by Joseph L. Scarpaci, Miami (The Havana Consulting Group).

Original Here: Eliminating Dual Currencies in Cuba: Measured, but Necessary Risk

New Picture

The Cuban government finally announced the elimination of its dual currency system in what will be one of the most challenging reforms to the economic model. Great expectations are riding on this new, single currency, which will have a great impact on the island’s society and economy.

Said measures will change the prevailing lifestyle of the past nearly 20 years for 11.2 million Cubans. That consisted of getting paid in a devalued ‘soft’ currency yet purchasing essential goods and services daily in a ‘hard’ currency, one used by tourists or sent by loved ones from abroad.

Authorities say they will deploy the new measure in stages, and the timeline will begin with government businesses.

A first stage will entail specifying the legal framework to support the move to a single currency. Financial information systems and adjustments to accounting systems are required as well.

Accountants and other personnel from across the country will require some training to handle the transition.

Uncertainty Awaits.

This important announcement, however, fails to specify firm dates and related details. News of the single currency system no doubt aims to calm the nerves of those who have saving accounts in convertible pesos (CUCs), international currencies, and Cuban pesos (CUPs). Still, the government will continue to apply the current policy of both subsidizing retail prices, and subsidizing those Cubans who require special government assistance.

Both subsidy strategies, though, are contradictory. On the one hand, a single currency means that one of those subsidies will be eliminated. Therefore, bank accounts will lose some value when they are rolled over to a single currency, whenever and whatever that might be.

On the other hand, in order to unify the currencies, sate subsidies will have to disappear or be reduced to a bare minimum, and that will be the hardest measure for the Cuban government to carry out. How will authorities face the dilemma of protecting the most vulnerable groups once this process takes holds?

The list of subsidies is extensive: utilities (electricity, telephone, gas, potable water) and the dwindling list of sparse, yet essential products provided by the longstanding ration book (libreta). Other subsidized public services include transportation, all levels of education, health care, and the sale of prescription drugs.

Do conditions exist to eliminate or drastically reduce these subsidies? Do the results achieved by the reforms carried out thus far justify these measures Will the government allow the private sector to expand in order to minimize the pain this difficult process will unleash?

All of this is uncertain. As the details of this currency matter become known, we will be able to assess the real impact that the elimination of the dual currency will have. Until then, it remains a uncertain.

New Exchange Rate in Sight

The government announcement also fails to specify how it will adjust the exchange rate in the process. We anticipate an immediate and sharp rise in the black-market dollar; perhaps two or three times for what the dollar will officially sell at the state-run CADECA money-exchange houses.

CADECA exchange rates currently value 25 Cuban pesos (CUC) for a single convertible peso (CUP). It is likely that in a few weeks the government will adjust this rate as a first step. That will be the first test of the impact this monetary policy will have in the marketplace and in everyday living. It will no doubt shape how the rest of the reforms unfold.

For instance, reducing the exchange rate to 1 CUC for 18 CUPs would lower the ceiling on the black market and avoid early speculation. At the same time, the move would increase workers’ purchasing power if prices set in dollars in state stores remain unchanged.

In this regard, the 240% mark up that the government automatically places on consumer goods sold in the so-called ‘dollar stores’ (e.g., hard-currency CUC sales) will give the government some cushion in absorbing these costs because it is a handsome margin. Foregoing some state profit will increase consumer purchasing power for ordinary Cubans.

But one thing is a fine wine and the other is just plain table wine, which gives pause and makes us wonder these first-stage measures really will jump start the process.

Investors on Alert

If the impact will be great on the Cuban people, it will be no less salient for investors residing on the island.

Regardless of the fine points these changes unleash, foreign joint-venture companies with investments in Cuba will be affected in some fashion. The bottom line for these companies will be affected by the costs, exchange rates and prices of the products they produce there. Profit margins will likely diminish somewhat until the currency changes stabilize, and production cycles catch up other changes in the monetary system.

Even if the transition is relatively smooth, it is likely that investment will slow down or simply be deferred until the most challenging part of the transition is over. It is noteworthy that over the past ten years, almost 200 joint-ventures have closed in Cuba, particularly since the freeze on repatriating profits took place in 2008, which was not fully over until 2010. On top of that comes the anti-corruption campaign carried out over the past four years.

Government efforts to attract new waves of investment to the upcoming duty-free zone of Mariel port (just west of Havana) will be challenged by these proposed banking measures. The uncertainty caused by the positive and necessary combining of the island’s currency will not be attractive to investors, at least until the process is fully implemented.

We can only hope that efforts to modernize the Cuban economy through these fiscal and monetary proposals –the most daunting measures proposed in recent economictimes—achieves its goals for the good of the Cuban people and does not become a huge disaster.


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Ernesto Hernández-Catá, “Cuba, the Soviet Union, and Venezuela: A Tale of Dependence and Shock.”

The complete analysis is available here: “Cuba, the Soviet Union, and Venezuela:  A Tale of Dependence and Shock.”   September 2013


Recently there have been several estimates of Venezuelan economic assistance to Cuba—for example by Lopez (2012) and Mesa-Lago (2013). My latest estimates suggest that payments from Venezuela increased rapidly during the first decade of the XXI century and peaked at almost 19% of Cuba’s GDP) in 2009. They declined over the following two years but remained quite large: I estimate Venezuelan assistance in 2011 (the last year for which the required data are available) at just over $7 billion, or 11 % of Cuba’s GDP. These numbers are large, and they have invited comparisons with Soviet assistance to Cuba in the late 1980s. It has been implied that the adverse effect on Cuba’s real GDP of ending Venezuelan aid would be similar in size to the devastating impact of the elimination of Soviet aid in 1990. This is almost certainly wrong.


The analysis presented in this paper indicates that a complete cancellation of Venezuelan assistance to Cuba would cause considerably less damage than the elimination of Soviet assistance in the early 1990s, with the fall in real GDP estimated at somewhere between 7% and 10%, compared to 38% after the breakdown of Cuban/Soviet relations. Moreover, if the Cuban government were to avoid the policies of   subsidization and inflationary finance pursued in the post-Soviet period, the post-Venezuelan contraction would be at the lower end of the range or approximately 7%.

This is still a lot, however. To be sure, the danger of a sudden elimination of aid inflows has diminished considerably since the Venezuelan election of April 2013. Nevertheless, the prospect of a more gradual reduction in aid remains likely given Venezuela’s economic difficulties. In that case, the effect would be a reduction in the growth of the Cuban economy spread over several years, rather than a sudden contraction of output. Furthermore, current efforts to obtain financing at non-market terms from other countries, like Algeria, Angola and Brazil, would, if successful, diminish the magnitude of the shock. But it would perpetuate dependence and delay the needed adjustment.

The only way to diminish the pain of reduced income and consumption would be a decisive effort to expand Cuba’s productive capacity by intensifying the reform process. The list of required actions is familiar to all: liberalize prices, unify the exchange rate system, dismantle exchange and trade controls, stop the bureaucratic interference with non-state agricultural producers, continue efforts to downsize employment in the state sector, and increase substantially the list of activities opened to the private sector, including (why not?) doctors, nurses, teachers and athletes. Private clinics and schools would pop up, consultancy services would flourish, and the baseball winter leagues would come back to life.

 Karl Marx (1852) credited Hegel with the idea that history repeats itself twice. Unfortunately for him, he added: the first time as a tragedy, the second time as a farce”. This is not necessarily true. Often the second time is also a tragedy, as when the West gave Eastern Europe to Stalin at Yalta, less than a decade after giving it to Hitler in Munich. And why couldn’t the second time be an epiphany? Cuba’s rulers now have a historic opportunity to allow people to improve their own standard of living, and to stop wasting resources to keep the faded and sinister red banner afloat. Without a doubt, history will absolve them if they take that chance. And then, perhaps, Cuba will be allowed to replace its politically inspired dependence on doubtful friends with free, mutually beneficial trade with all nations.

Ernesto Hernandez-Cata was born in Marianao, Havana, Cuba in 1942. He holds a License from the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva, Switzerland; and a Ph.D. in economics from Yale University. For about 30 years through, Ernesto Hernandez-Cata worked for the International Monetary Fund where he held a number of senior positions. When he retired from the I.M.F. in July 2003 he was Associate Director of the African Department and Chairman of the Investment Committee of the Staff Retirement Plan. Previously he had served in the Division of International Finance of the Federal Reserve Board. From 2002 to 2007 Mr. Hernandez-Cata taught economic development and growth at the Paul Nitze School of Advanced International Studies of the University of Johns Hopkins. Previously he had taught macroeconomics and monetary policy at The American University.

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