Tag Archives: Macroeconomy

Pavel Vidal Alejandro: “Microfinance in Cuba”

Below is a Power Point Presentation on Cuba’s rapidly evolving microfinance system prepared for the “Seminar on Prospects for Cuba’s Economy” at the Bildner Center, City University of New York, on May 21, 2012 by Pavel Vidal Alejandro. To my knowledge this is the first such analysis to appear for the Cuban case.

Unfortunately for the Centro de Estudios de la Economía Cubana (CEEC) de la Universidad de La Habana, Dr. Vidal has just left for Pontificia Universidad Javeriana of Cali, Colombia, where he will be a professor of macroeconomics. He apparently left on good terms with CEEC and, fortunately,  will continue his work on the Cuban economy. \

The full presentation can be found here:   Pavel Vidal: Microfinance in Cuba


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Presentations from the Bildner Center, (CUNY) “COLLOQUIUM ON THE CUBAN ECONOMY” May 2012,

On May 12, The Bildner Center at City University of New York, under the leadership of Mauricio Font organized a one-day conference analyzing the recent experience of the Cuban economy in its process of transformation.  All of the Power Point presentations from the  “COLLOQUIUM ON THE CUBAN ECONOMY” have been posted on the  Center’s Web Site. The presentations of the Cuban participants, all from the Center for the Study of the Cuban Economy, namely Omar Everleny, Pavel Vidal, Camila Piñeiro, and Armando Nova, are especially valuable and informative as they provide up-to-date and inside analyses of major issue areas. Mauricio, Mario González-Corzo, and the team are certainly to be congratulated for organizing this event

All of the presentations can be be accessed at the Bildner Web Site via the hyperlinks listed below in the form of the program of the conference.

Session #1: Cuban Updates on Actualización

1. Cuentapropismo y ajuste estructural
Omar Everleny, University of Havana

2. Microfinanzas en Cuba
Pavel Vidal, University of Havana

3. Non-state Enterprises in Cuba: Current Situation and Prospects
Camila Piñeiro, University of Havana

4. Impacto de los Lineamientos de la Política Económico y Social en la producción nacional de alimento
Armando Nova, University of Havana

Moderator: Mauricio Font, Bildner Center for Western Hemisphere Studies

Session # 2: Strategic Initiatives: Agriculture

1. Measuring Cuba’s Agricultural Transformations: Preliminary Findings
Mario González-Corzo, Lehman College, CUNY

2. U.S. Food and Agricultural Exports to Cuba – Uncertain Times Ahead
Bill Messina, University of Florida

Moderator: Emily Morris, Economist Intelligence Unit in London

Session # 3: Revamping Socialism: Perspectives and Prospects

1. Actualización in Perspective
Mauricio Font, Bildner Center for Western Hemisphere Studies

2. Cuban Restructuring: Economic Risks
Emily Morris, Economist Intelligence Unit in London

3. Prospects in a Changing Geo-Economic Environment Archibald Ritter, Carleton University, Canada

ROUNDTABLE: Implications and Future Agenda

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Ernesto Hernández-Catá has agreed to have his recent essay “The Growth of the Cuban Economy in the First Decade of the XXI Century: Is it Sustainable?posted on this Web Site. It was written for presentation at the forthcoming 22nd annual meeting of the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy in Miami in August 2012. The full study is available here: Ernesto Hernandez-Cata, “The Growth of the Cuban Economy in the First Decade of the XXI Century”.

Ernesto Hernández-Catá


Income and production increased rapidly in Cuba during the first decade of the XXI century. Growth was fueled by a surge in government spending and a boom in services exports and investment—all of them made possible by rapidly increasing in payments received from Venezuela. The expansion in both domestic and foreign demand during the decade did not visibly result in higher inflation or in a massive deterioration of the country’s external position, partly because potential output also increased rapidly reflecting the strong performance of investment. (In this connection, it is a good thing that part of the Venezuelan money was used to finance capital formation rather than consumption.) However, capacity utilization also increased markedly, and the gap between actual and potential GDP must have dwindled considerably, leaving little room for supply to respond to additional demand pressures.

While there was no explosion in the current account of the balance of payments for most of the decade, severe pressures did emerge in 2008 and the authorities had to restrict imports, ration foreign exchange, and take measures that damaged the nation’s reputation in world financial markets. The Central Bank also intervened on a large scale to keep the exchange value of the Cuban peso fixed—a policy that cannot continue forever.

The large size of Cuba’s dependence on Venezuelan aid makes the country hostage to fortune. A sudden interruption in such aid would trigger a deep recession and put the balance of payments in a critical position. Therefore the structural measures that were taken or announced in 2009 and 2010 should now be extended and pursued much more aggressively. This will not be easy. But as Russia’s former Finance Minister Boris Fedorov once said, dependence on foreign largesse is a luxury that a free country cannot afford.[i]

[i]  At the Conference on Russia’s Economic Reform held in Stockholm in June 1994. In response to an injunction by Jeffrey Sachs to suppress hyperinflation by fixing the value of the Ruble and borrowing massive amounts from abroad.

Ernesto Hernandez-Cata was born in 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, Mr. Hernandez-Cata worked for the International Monetary Fund where he held a number of senior positions, including: Deputy Director of Research and coordinator of the World Economic Outlook; chief negotiator with the Russian Federation; and Deputy Director of the Western Hemisphere Department, concentrating on relations with the United States and Canada. When he retired from the I.M.F. in July 2003 he was Associate Director of the African Department\, where he dealt with Ethiopia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of Congo, among other countries. He was also  Chairman of the Investment Committee of the IMF’s Staff Retirement Plan. Previously he had served in the Division of International Finance of the Federal Reserve Board. From 2002 to2007 he 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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Pavel Vidal Alejandro on “Monetary and Exchange Rate Reform in Cuba: Lessons from Viet Nam”

Pavel Vidal of the Centro de Estudios sobre la Economia Cubana has just published a study on Cuba’s exchange rate and monetary policy reform with lessonbs from Viet Noam. it was published in Februaryt 2012 by the Institute of Developing Economies in Japan.

The Abstract of the work is presented below. The complete study is located here:  Pavel Vidal, Monetary Reform Cuba and Vietnam VRF Series473 IDE JAPAN


Since 2010, the Cuban economy has entered a new period of economic reform, officially labeled as an “update of the economic model.” Cuba undertook a previous reform in the 1990s, but this was halted in the first decade of this century. Now, the new president, Raúl Castro, has insisted that the measures are permanent and structural.

This paper evaluates the three objectives of the proposed reform regarding monetary and exchange rate policy: 1) currency unification, 2) improving the monetary policy strategy and 3) financial transformations. In order to weigh the extent of the visible contents of the Cuban monetary and exchange rate reform and obtain lessons from international experiences, some elements of the Vietnamese reform are taken as points of comparison. The starting point of the Cuban reform has many differences compared to Vietnam. The principal significance and benefit of looking at Vietnam lies in the similarities between the problems that Cuba is facing today in relation to those faced by Vietnam since 1986, when the country launched the Doi Moi reform, since both starting models share many characteristics of the Soviet-style system.

The state sector in Vietnam was smaller than in any other reforming socialist economy. Large-scale state enterprises formed only a small part of its economy. Dollar (1993), Perkings (1993) and Riedel and Comer (1995) conclude that the structure of the Vietnamese reform was convenient for responding to a “big bang” liberalization in the late 1980s. When small units are the majority, it is easier to make the market system work. Therefore, the Vietnamese economy was in a better position to respond to the incentives provided by market-oriented reform than is the current dominant big state sector in Cuba.

Early indications show that Cuban monetary and exchange rate reform will focus on the unification of the Cuban peso and convertible peso, the development of an interbank market, on the opening of  personal credit and loans for non-state businesses, and the improvement of the strategy for the monetary policy through greater coordination and the establishment of rules.

Taking into account the Vietnamese path of reform, and the changes that would seem necessary to achieve the very goals of planned Cuban reform for 2011-2015, a group of lacunae could be identified, such as the issue of government bonds, the entrance of foreign banks, greater competition and more flexibility in interest rates, as well as issues regarding transparency in the monetary policy. Cuba’s exchange rate adjustment in the 1990s was incomplete, since it took place only in the household sector. To eliminate the exchange rate and monetary duality, Cuban authorities must now extend the devaluation of the Cuban peso to the SOEs, joint venture companies and government institutions. They have to decide whether to do it gradually or by using a “big bang” approach, as in Vietnam. The large gap between exchange rates in Cuba (2,300%) speaks against a sudden devaluation of that magnitude, but also against the other extreme alternative of a too-slow adjustment that would require another twenty years of bearing the costs of monetary duality.

Low inflation is an important advantage of the current Cuban reform compared to the reform of the early 1990s, and also compared to Vietnam in the 1980s. However, the ongoing liberalization process could put price stability under risk. Like Vietnam, Cuba will experience inflationary pressures; first, coming from the unavoidable exchange rate devaluation, and second, because of the shift from officially-set prices to market prices. If Cuba’s government is able to implement the planned labor adjustment and the fiscal restraints together with the opening to the non-state sector, then the risk of high inflation will be certainly lower. A matter that arises from the overall analysis of the Cuban reform is the inefficiency of focusing the liberalization only on microenterprises and agriculture without taking advantage of the enormous amount of resources invested in education during the last five decades. It seems far better for sustainable economic growth, based on productivity gains, to extend the opening to the non-state sector on a larger scale, including a renewed aperture to foreign direct investments (FDI). It is not intended that changes happen all at once, fracturing the  macroeconomic and institutional stability of the country. In fact, as can be seen, the Vietnamese reform took several years to complete significant transformations of the economic system. However, Cuba should try everything possible to speed up its process in order to  recover lost time.

The Author
Pavel Vidal Alejandro is Assistant Professor at the Center for the Study of the Cuban Economy (University of Havana). He worked in the Monetary Policy Division of the Central Bank of Cuba for seven years (1999-2006). His fields of specialization are monetary policy and time series econometric models. He completed his Ph.D. at the University of Havana in 2007. In 2010, he was Visiting Professor at Harvard University and Universidad Complutense of Madrid.

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A three-day international symposium held under the auspices of the Bildner Center at City University of New York. and spearheaded by its Director Mauricio Font, was held in March 2011. It was entitled Cuba Futures: Past and Present, and focused on the dynamics of change in contemporary Cuba—the politics, culture, economy.

A selection of the papers on the Cuban economy have been published on the web by the Bildner Centre.  The are all hyperlinked here: Political Economy of Change in Cuba, Bildner Center, CUNY New York. A Table of Contents is presented below. Of special interest are the essays by the analysts from the Centro de Estudios sobre la Economia Cubana, Armando Nova, Camila Piñeiro, Pavel Vidal Alejandro and Omar Everleny Pérez .

Table of Contents

Preface                                                                                                                                   xi

1 La actualización del modelo económico cubano, Omar Everleny Pérez Villanueva

2 Forecasting Cuba’s Economy: 2, 5, and 20 Years, Emily Morris*    10

3 Las restricciones de divisas en la economía cubana, 2010, Pavel Vidal Alejandro 19

4 New Forms of Enterprise in Cuba’s Changing Economy, Camila Piñeiro Harnecker    43

5 Valoración del impacto de las medidas más recientes en los resultados de la agricultura en Cuba, Armando Nova González     63

6 Las nuevas transformaciones en la agricultura cubana: éxitos y desafíos, Reynaldo Jiménez Guethón           81

7 Cuba y el turismo norteamericano. Analisis de potencialidades y de impactos en la región caribeña, Gerardo González Núñez and Roberto Orro Fernández         9

78 Tourism in Cuba: Barriers to Economic Growth and Development Hilary Becker     117

9 Cuba: A Services-Centered Survival and Development Pattern, Alberto Gabriele        133

10 Theoretical Foundations of a Future Privatization in Cuba: The Property and Ownership Paradigm, Frank-Christian Hansel   155

11 Globalization and the Socialist Multinational: Cuba and ALBA’s Grannacional Projects at the Intersection of Business and Human Rights, Larry Catá Backer         183

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Cuba’s Economic Reform Process under President Raul Castro: Challenges, Strategic Actions and Prospective Performance

The Bildner Center at City University of New York Graduate Center organized a conference entitled “Cuba Futures: Past and Present” from March 31 to April 2. The very rich and interdisciplinary program can be found here: Cuba Futures Conference, Program.

I had the honor of making a presentation in the Opening Plenary Panel.  The Power Point presentation is available at “Cuba’s Economic Reform Process under President Raul Castro.”

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New Publication: Oscar Chepe, Cambios en Cuba: Pocos, Limitados y Tardíos

Oscar Chepe’s recent  work on Cuba’s economic situation and the reform process has just been published and is available on the web site: Reconciliación Cubana, or here: Oscar Chepe, Cambios Cuba: Pocos, Limitados y Tardíos

Oscar continues to be a courageous and  outspoken analyst of Cuba’s economic policies. In this past, this earned for him a period of forced labor in the 1960s and incarceration in March 2003 along with 75 others. Despite this, he continues to express his views openly and honestly. Although his voice is heard easily outside his own country, within Cuba, his views unfortunately are blocked rather effectively by state control of the publications media, the electronic media and by the continuous violation of the right to freedom of assembly.

Below is a Table of Contents followed by an Executive Summary by Rolando Castaneda.

Table of Contents:

Prologo por Carmelo Mesa Lago 1
Resume Ejecutivo por Rolando Castañeda 6
I. Introducción 11
II. Pequeñas y medianas empresas 14
III. Actualización del modelo económico cubano 16
IV. Problemas de orden externo e interno 19
V. La empresa estatal socialista 22
VI. Mercados mayoristas, precios 24
VII. Cooperativas 27
VIII. Política fiscal 29
IX. Políticas macroeconómicas 31
X. Política monetaria 34
XI. Política económica externa 37
XII. Inversión extranjera 40
XIII. Política inversionista 43
XIV. Ciencia, tecnología e innovación 45
XV. Política social 47
XVI. Salud 51
XVII. Deporte 54
XVIII. Cultura 56
XIX. Seguridad social 59
XX. Empleo y salarios 61
XXI. Política agroindustrial 64
XXII. Política industrial y energética 68
XXIII. Política energética 71
XXIV. Turismo 74
XXV. Política de transporte 77
XXVI. Construcciones, las viviendas y los recursos hidráulicos 79
XXVII. Comercio 82
XXVIII. Conclusiones 84
A 20 años de Primer Informe de Desarrollo Humano de ONU 87
Cuba Bordeando el Precipicio 90
La Economía Cubana en 2010 93
Cuba: Un Principio Espeluznante 100

Oscar Chepe and Miriam Leiva, February 2010. Photo by Arch Ritter

Resumen Ejecutivo, por Rolando Castañeda

Planteamiento general
Los instrumentos aprobados por el gobierno para la implementación del trabajo por cuenta propia, el proceso de la reducción de las plantillas infladas, el recorte de los gastos sociales y el Proyecto de Lineamientos de la Política Económica y Social, revelan pocos, parciales e insuficientes cambios, que no solucionarán la crisis socioeconómica existente.
El gobierno sólo actualiza (“le pone parches”) a las fuentes principales de los problemas actuales: el sistema socioeconómico, que no ha funcionado, es irreparable y está mal gestionado, así como el régimen político totalitario carente de libertades civiles fundamentales. Ellos han llevado al desastre, la dependencia externa e impiden la sustentabilidad económica.
La baja eficiencia, la descapitalización de la base productiva y de la infraestructura, el envejecimiento y estancamiento en el crecimiento poblacional, entre otros muchos males, son consecuencias de ese modelo.
El gobierno elude medidas indispensables mientras propone unas pocas medidas insuficientes, llenas de limitaciones y prohibiciones. También reitera sin corregir apropiadamente medidas anteriores que han sido implementadas con muchas limitaciones y sin tener una concepción integral de la economía, tales como: la entrega de tierras en usufructo, el pago por resultado a los trabajadores y los recortes fiscales.
Los Lineamientos definen que primará la planificación y no el mercado, o sea continuará la burocratización de la sociedad, bajo rígidas normas centralizadoras, que imposibilitan la flexibilidad requerida por la actividad económica y la vida en general de la nación. No se reconoce la propiedad privada y se subraya la política de no permitir el crecimiento de la actividad individual.
La seria contradicción de una política con ribetes neoliberales de drásticos recortes, sin que se brinde a los ciudadanos posibilidades reales de ganarse el sustento decentemente, e incluso aportar de forma racional a los gastos del Estado, podría determinar convulsiones sociales, en un ambiente ya permeado por la desilusión y la falta de esperanza.

El despido de trabajadores y el trabajo por cuenta propia
El vital proceso de racionalización laboral, con el despido hasta abril de 2011 de 500.000 trabajadores considerados innecesarios, el 10% de la fuerza de trabajo ocupada, para continuar haciéndolo posteriormente con otros 800.000, que fue postergado por tantos años, ahora se pretende realizar de forma muy rápida. No se ha contado con la preparación apropiada ni la organización para que tenga éxito en un plazo tan breve y se pueda reubicar una cantidad tan grande de despedidos. Ni siquiera se han modificado los artículos de la Constitución Política (i.e. el 21 y el 45) que se contraponen a lo propuesto.
Al desestimulo por los bajos salarios, la carencia de información técnica, el vacío de reconocimiento social y las generalizadas malas condiciones laborables, a las nuevas generaciones de estudiantes se une ahora la incertidumbre de hallar empleo futuro por el despido masivo de trabajadores.
El trabajo por cuenta propia en sólo 178 actividades permitidas que deberá absorber el despedido masivo de trabajadores, enfrenta graves limitaciones, más severas que las existentes para las empresas estatales y las mixtas con capital extranjero. Incluyen los impuestos por seguridad social del 25% que el trabajador por cuenta propia deberá contribuir, así como los trabajadores que se contraten con base en un salario fijado por el gobierno, a un nivel 50% mayor que el salario medio prevaleciente. También están los elevados impuestos sobre los ingresos personales que pueden llegar hasta el 50% cuando excedan de $50,000 anuales, y las restricciones a los gastos de operación que se permiten deducir de los ingresos brutos para fines tributarios, en algunos oficios de sólo hasta el 10% de los ingresos anuales.
A ello hay que añadir algunas prohibiciones arbitrarias, tal como las sobre el número de sillas de los restaurantes (20) y las barberías (3), así como la ausencia de un mercado mayorista de abastecimiento de insumos. Hasta tanto ese mercado no aparezca, continuará desarrollándose la ilegalidad y, sobre todo, el robo de los recursos estatales, estimulado por el extendido descontrol existente y el miserable salario de los trabajadores. ‘
De esta forma el Estado reduce la actividad individual a iniciativas arbolitos bonsái e impide el crecimiento del trabajo por cuenta propia y el surgimiento de pequeñas y medianas empresa. Un mecanismo configurado para mantener el estrecho control del Estado-Partido sobre la sociedad, temeroso de que el fortalecimiento y desarrollo de la actividad privada pueda convertirse posteriormente en un peligro.

Aspectos generales y macroeconómicos

La mayoría de los Lineamientos sobre aspectos generales, macroeconómicos y sectoriales son enunciativos, generalidades que soslayan la grave situación con la continuada acumulación de graves problemas y sin proponer soluciones reales para los mismos. Desafortunadamente, los cambios requeridos no se avizoran. Este conjunto de 28 artículos se refiere a estos temas y por qué considera que su tratamiento es insuficiente para una sociedad estatizada, llena de distorsiones y carente de racionalidad económica
El problema de la descapitalización física es sumamente serio. Desde inicios de los años 1990 se mantienen tasas de formación bruta de capital fijo en relación con el PIB usualmente inferiores al 10%, menores a las tasas de amortización de los medios de producción y la infraestructura, aceleradas por la falta de reposición, actualización tecnológica y mantenimiento adecuado.
Desprovisto el país de la “ayuda” a inicios de 1990, empezó el deterioro paulatino de la salud pública, la educación, la seguridad social, el deporte y la cultura, con una incidencia muy negativa en los salarios, que como indicara el presidente Raúl Castro el 26 de julio de 2007 son insuficientes para vivir. La permanencia de los esquemas sociales con oportunidades de acceso para todos está en peligro debido a la falta de sustentación económica.
Resulta indispensable introducir tasas de cambio reales. Las tasas actuales, recargadas por gravámenes absurdos, que pueden conducir a análisis distorsionados y por consecuencia a decisiones equivocadas. En especial respecto a la política de inversiones, el comercio exterior y otros aspectos vitales para el desarrollo nacional. Una moneda sobredimensionada representa un serio obstáculo para el crecimiento de la llegada de turistas, al reducir arbitrariamente la competitividad del mercado cubano.
Cuba paga intereses bancarios muy altos a los prestamistas extranjeros; sin embargo, a los nacionales se les abonan intereses sumamente bajos, incluso por debajo de las tasas de inflación reales. Es necesario motivar a la población a depositar sus ahorros en los bancos, en especial aquellos en moneda convertible, dándosele las debidas garantías y el pago de intereses estimulantes y acordes con la situación financiera del país.
El gobierno no contempla la participación de la comunidad cubana en el exterior en la reconstrucción nacional. Un sector de nuestro pueblo que, con el otorgamiento de las garantías necesarias, podría ser fuente de importantes recursos financieros, tecnologías avanzadas, conocimiento y experiencia en la gestión de negocios y posibles nuevos mercados. Habría que adoptar una política pragmática e inteligente de acercamiento a nuestros hermanos en el extranjero, muy en especial hacia la comunidad afincada en EEUU, que además podría ser un puente para mejorar las relaciones con ese país, con enormes beneficios para nuestra economía.

Aspectos sectoriales
En los aspectos sectoriales de los Lineamientos se habla mucho acerca de ejecutar proyectos e inversiones, de potenciar capacidades de diseño y proyección, y fortalecer determinadas capacidades, pero no se define como hacerlo ni como financiarlo.

La esencia de los problemas nacionales, pueden hallarse en la destrucción de la agricultura que ha provocado una extraordinaria dependencia de alimentos importados, incluido azúcar, café y otros muchos que antes Cuba exportaba, mientras, los Lineamientos, reconocen que “ …las tierras todavía ociosas,.. constituyen el 50%…”. El sector está afectado por los precios fijados por el Estado unilateralmente por debajo del mercado, con frecuentes largas demoras en los pagos y las tradicionales deficiencias en la gestión de las empresas acopiadoras oficiales. Las tiendas abiertas para la venta de herramientas e insumos tampoco constituyen una solución, los precios son demasiado altos.
Las Cooperativas de Crédito y Servicios (CCS), donde los productores con muchas dificultades mantienen sus tierras individualmente, con sólo el 18% de la superficie agrícola total (cierre de 2007) han generado tradicionalmente más del 60% de la producción agrícola nacional, así como el más bajo por ciento de tierras ociosas, a pesar de la crónica falta de recursos, el permanente hostigamiento, las prohibiciones y la obligatoriedad de entregar las cosechas total o parcialmente al Estado en las condiciones y a los precios arbitrarios fijados por él.
En este escenario si se continúa con la mentalidad de ejercer estrictos controles sobre los posibles cooperativistas y negando la voluntariedad como concepto básico para la formación de las cooperativas, por muchos “buenos deseos” e indefinidos planteamientos que existan, el movimiento cooperativo no avanzará.
En la industria se refleja con mayor fuerza el proceso de descapitalización generalizado desde principios de la década de 1990. Por ello se requiere con urgencia su modernización y reequipamiento para poder detener la tendencia al actual atraso tecnológico, e incluso la paralización del sector. En 2009 se alcanzó una producción correspondiente al 45% de 1989, incluida la industria azucarera. Si se excluyera esta industria, el indicador sería del 51%. La producción nacional de materiales de construcción es muy baja, con un índice de volumen físico, al cierre de 2009, solo del 27% del nivel de 1989.
El gobierno cubano no publica los ingresos netos por concepto de turismo, por lo cual es difícil evaluar con precisión sus beneficios. Debido al pobre desarrollo de la economía cubana, se importa muchos productos consumidos por los visitantes. Esta actividad podría ser una de las locomotoras que impulse las demás ramas de la economía, pero para ello habría que realizar reformas estructurales, que reduzcan radicalmente la dependencia del exterior.

El aniquilamiento de los sueños de un futuro más justo y próspero para Cuba, podría detenerse si se propiciara un proceso de reconstrucción radical, con el abandono de los dogmas que tanto daño han hecho. Cuba posee significativas reservas productivas inexplotadas y un pueblo que debidamente estimulado, con libertad para crear, podría sacar a la nación de la crisis. Para ello resulta indispensable un nuevo modelo económico, político y social en el cual participarían en paridad de derechos y deberes las iniciativas públicas y privadas, estableciéndose un círculo virtuoso propiciador de desarrollo, que en la medida en que progresen ambas iniciativas se beneficie el país con mayores niveles de eficiencia, así como más y mejores productos, y el incremento del pago de impuestos que haga sostenible la financiación de la educación, salud pública, seguridad y asistencia social, y otros.

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An Overview Evaluation of Economic Policy in Cuba circa 2010

By Arch Ritter

The essay attached and summarized briefly here was presented at a conference at CIAPA, in San Jose, Costa Rica, February 3 and 4, 2009 organized by Paolo Spadonu of Tulane University.

The full essay is entitled An Overview Evaluation of Economic Policy in Cuba, circa 2010, June 30, 2010 and can be seen “HERE”. The Introduction and Conclusion are presented below.

Hopefully, this evaluation will change considerably for the better after the Sixth Congress of the Communist party of Cuba in April.

I. Introduction

The economic development of Cuba has been characterized by high levels of investment in people with successful results, but with weak performance in terms of the production of goods and services generally. Cuba’s achievements regarding human development are well known and are epitomized by the United Nations Development Program’s “Human Development Index” (HDI). On the one hand, this index ranks Cuba at #1 in the world for the Education component (somewhat surprisingly) and #31for the Life Expectancy component. On the other hand, Cuba’s world ranking is for GDP per capita in purchasing power parity terms is #94 with an overall world HDI ranking of #51(UNDP, HDR, 2009, 271.) These rankings underline the inconsistency between the Cuba’s high level of human development on the one hand and its economic underperformance on the other. The strong economic performance of the 2004 to 2008 period appeared to constitute a rapid recovery in terms of Cuban GDP statistics. However, this recovery, while perhaps not illusory, was fragile and unsustainable, based on factors such as support from Venezuela and high nickel export prices, and indeed it has been reversed in 2009-2010.

Given the quality of Cuba’s human resources, the economic performance for the last 15 years should have been excellent. The central argument of this essay is that Cuba’s weak economic performance has been the result of counter-productive public policy. The objective of this essay is to analyze and evaluate a number of central policy areas that shape Cuba’s economic performance, including monetary and exchange rate policy, policy towards micro-enterprise; agricultural policy, labor policy, foreign investment policy, policies towards infrastructure renewal, and the policy approach to self-correction and self-renewal.

In order to present a brief overview of the evaluations, an academic style of grading is employed, with an “A+” being excellent through to an “F” representing “failure”.

This evaluation schema is of course subjective, impressionistic and suggestive rather than rigorous. It is based on brief analyses of the various policy areas. However, the schema is similar to the scoring systems widely used in academia, and is used here with no more apology than is normally the case in the academic world.

Before proceeding with the policy analysis and evaluation, a brief overview of economic performance in the decade of the 2000s is presented to provide the context for the examinations of economic policy.

II. General Economic Performance

III.  Evaluation of Some Central Policy Areas

IV.   Summary and Conclusion:

A summary of the evaluations of the various assessment areas yields an overall evaluation of   “D +”. This is not a strong assessment of Cuban economic policies.

1. Monetary & Exchange Rate Policy                  C-

2. Micro-Enterprise Policy                                    F

3. Policy towards Agriculture                              C-

4. Labor Policy                                                        D+

5. Foreign Investment Policy D+

6. Infrastructure Renewal                                   D

7. Capacity for Self Correction                            D

Overall Grade: D +

The result of such weak policies in these areas is weak economic performance. Badly conceived economic policies nullify the potential efforts of the Cuban citizenry. The major investments in human capital, while fine in their own right, are not yielding strong economic performance. Indeed, misguided policies are undermining, sabotaging and wasting the economic energies and initiatives of Cuba’s citizens.

Major policy reforms amounting to a strategic reorientation of Cuban economic management are likely necessary to achieve a sustained economic recovery and future economic trajectory. So far, writing in June 2010, the Government of Raul Castro has made some modest moves, principally in agriculture, as mentioned earlier. Other policy areas such as those relating to micro-enterprise are reported to be under discussion at high levels in the government. On the other hand, the replacement of the reputed pragmatists Carlos Lage, (Secretary of the Council of Ministers) and Jose Luis Rodriguez, (Vice President of the Council of Ministers and Minister of Economy and Planning) and the replacement of Lage by Major General José Amado Ricardo Guerra of the Armed Forces seems to suggest that the Raul Castro Government may be moving towards a less reformist approach to economic management ( Granma International, 2009.)

The types of policy reforms that would be necessary to strengthen the policy areas discussed above would include the following:

  1. Monetary & Exchange Rate Policy: movement towards realistic and unified monetary and exchange rate systems;
  2. Micro-Enterprise Policy: establishment of an enabling and supportive policy environment rather than a punitive policy of containment;
  3. Policy towards Agriculture: further support for small-scale farmers plus a reinvigoration of the abandoned sugar fields with cane for ethanol, among other policies;
  4. Labor Policy: implement the International Labour Organization approach to fundamental labor rights;
  5. Foreign Investment Policy: establish a clearer and more unequivocal rules-based policy framework;
  6. Infrastructure Renewal: strengthening resource flows towards maintenance, especially for housing, water, and sanitation, and facilitating self-managed and do-it-yourself maintenance on the housing stock by liberalizing the trades and making repair supplies available at reasonable cost;
  7. Capacity for Self Correction: permit an authentic implementation of freedom of expression and freedom of association thereby permitting economic analysis and criticism through a free press and media and the formation of alternate “teams” of potential economic managers – some within political parties.

In sum, effective economic management requires new ideas, transparency and criticism, and, indeed, a major policy reform process in order to reverse the current wastage of human energies, talents and resources. Policy reorientations in the directions noted above are unlikely to be forthcoming from the Government of Raul Castro, which appears to be deeply conservative as well as “gerontocratic”. Cuba will likely have to wait for a “New Team” or more likely a “generational change” in its overall economic management before such major reforms can be implemented.

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Economic Analyses Published by Espacio Laical, CONSEJO ARQUIDIOCESANO DE LAICOS DE LA HABANA

Perhaps surprisingly, Espacio Laical, the journal of the CONSEJO ARQUIDIOCESANO DE LAICOS DE LA HABANA, has become a most interesting medium for economic and political and religious analyses and exchanges. Its circulation in digital format within Cuba via the “Intranet” is unclear. However, it has produced a variety of works by some of Cuba’s leading economic analysts including those in the main Research Institute focusing on the on the domestic Cuban economy, namely the Centro de Estudios sobre la Economia Cubana, (CEEC), ttp://www.ceec.uh.cu/. Many of the analysts in CEEC publish their work in Espacio Laical or other sources outside their own institution, which unfortunately has a rather minimalist web site at this time, .

Here is an Index of Economic Articles that have appeared in Espacio Laical, with most of them  hyperlinked to the original source.

Barbería, Lorena – Remesas, pobreza y desigualdad en Cuba. (Año 4 / No.14)

Calvo, Cristina – X Semana Social Católica: Globalización y desarrollo integral inclusivo. (Año 6 / No.23)

Espacio Laical – Economía cubana (portada) (Año 4 / No.14)
Economía cubana: retos y opciones. (Año 4 / No.14)

Everleny Pérez, Omar – Se extiende el cuentapropismo en Cuba. (Año 6 / No.24)

Laborem , boletín del Movimiento de Trabajadores Cristianos (MTC)  – Sin quitarle una letra. (Año I / No.1)

La Quincena. – Textos para la reforma social. (Año I / No.4)

Mesa, Armando – Mercado y solidaridad: ¿un debate intergeneracional? (portada) (Año 4 / No.14)
Mercado y solidaridad: ¿un debate intergeneracional? (Año 4 / No.14)

Mesa-Lago, Carmelo – Posible restablecimiento de relaciones económicas entre Cuba y Estados Unidos: Ventajas y desventajas. (Año 4 / No.14)
La crisis financiera mundial y sus efectos en Cuba (Año 4 / No.16)
¿Se recupera el mundo de la crisis económica global? (Año 5 / No.20)
– X Semana Social Católica: Implicaciones sociales y económicas para el sistema de seguridad social en
El desempleo en Cuba: de oculto a visible. (Año 6 / No.24)

Monreal González, Pedro – El problema económico de Cuba. (Año 4 / No.14)

Pérez Villanueva, Omar Everleny – X Semana Social Católica: Notas recientes sobre la economía en Cuba. (Año 6 / No.23)

Robles, Reydel – X Semana Social Católica: Presentación al panel sobre economía y sociedad. (Año 6 / No.23)

Veiga González, Roberto – Propiedad privada en Cuba: una percepción de futuro. (Año I / No.4)

Vidal Alejandro Pavel – Redimensionando la dualidad monetaria (Año 3 / No.11)
Los salarios, los precios y la dualidad monetaria. (Año 4 / No.14)
El PIB cubano en 2009 y la crisis global. (Año 5 / No.18)
Los cambios estructurales e institucionales. (Año 6 / No.21)
– X Semana Social Católica: La actual crisis bancaria cubana. (Año 6 / No.23)
Se extiende el cuentapropismo en Cuba. (Año 6 / No.24)

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CARMELO MESA-LAGO and PAVEL VIDAL-ALEJANDRO, “The Impact of the Global Crisis on Cuba’s Economy and Social Welfare”

Journal of Latin American Studies. 42, 689–717,  Cambridge University Press, 2010

Carmelo Mesa-Lago and Pavel Vidal have teamed up to produce a fine analysis of the impacts of the world recession of 2009-201o on Cuba,  its macro-economy and its social sectors.  It is certainly encouraging to see such cooperation in the economics discipline! The article can be found here: Pavel Vidal and Carmelo Mesa-Lago, Cuba economic social impact crisis-JLAS-11 (2)

Abstract.The mechanisms by which the world economic crisis has been transmitted from developed to developing economies are conditioned by domestic factors that may attenuate or accentuate external economic shocks and their adverse social effects. Cuba is a special case : it is an open economy and hence vulnerable to trade growth transmission mechanisms, but at the same time, it is a socialist economy with universal social services. This article reviews the literature, summarises Cuba’s domestic socio-economic strengths and weaknesses prior to the crisis, evaluates the effects of the crisis on the macro-economic and social services indicators, assesses the government response and suggests alternative socio-economic policies.

Carmelo Mesa-Lago


Pavel Vidal

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