• This Blog on The Cuban Economy is dedicated to Cuba's Generation "A". Although inspired by Yoani Sánchez' blog "Generation Y" this is not dedicated to those with names starting with the letter "A". Instead, it draws from Douglas Coupland's novel Generation A which begins with a quotation from Kurt Vonnegut at a University Commencement that was brought to my attention by Andrew Johnston of Ottawa: ".. ... I hereby declare you Generation A, as much as the beginning of a series of astounding triumphs and failures as Adam and Eve were so long ago."

    The objective of this Blog is to facilitate access to research resources and analyses from all relevant and useful sources, mainly on the economy of Cuba.

UNITED NATIONS ECLAC: PRELIMINARY OVERVIEW OF THE ECONOMIES OF LATIN AMERICA AND THE CARIBBEAN, 2016: CUBA

Document is available here: UN ECLAC 2016, CUBA http://repositorio.cepal.org/bitstream/handle/11362/40826/70/1601259BP_Cuba_en.pdf

ECLAC estimates GDP growth of 0.4% for Cuba in 2016. This was a particularly difficult year for the country’s economy, in an international context where economic expansion was still slow and foreign trade continued to weaken as a driver of growth. A fiscal deficit of 6% is projected (compared with 5.8% in 2015). The current account is expected to yield a surplus again in 2016, but a smaller one of about US$ 1.9 billion. Although economic conditions have caused prices for some agricultural products to rise, price levels generally have remained fairly stable and inflation in 2016 is expected to be similar to the previous year’s (2.8%). The total number of employed remained unchanged, with a tendency for employment to fall in the State sector and increase in the non-State sector. The unemployment rate is projected to be 2.4%.

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IN CUBA, THE POST-FIDEL ERA BEGAN TEN YEARS AGO

January 23, 2017 2.49 am EST

Ramón I. Centeno, Postdoctoral fellow, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM)

Original Article: Post-Fidel Era

Ever since Fidel Castro died in November 2016, foreign observers – journalists, political tourists, and the like – have flocked to the streets of Havana. Let’s go and see communist Cuba before it is too late! they reason.

What this reaction misses is that Cuba has already changed: the post-Fidel era is a decade old.

My new research, published in Mexican Law Review, shows major shifts in the governing style and ideology of the country. The charismatic leadership that epitomised Fidel’s time in power is gone, replaced by a collective arrangement. And Cuba’s centrally planned economy has integrated market socialist features.

These changes will likely be accelerated by Barack Obama’s recent repeal of the US policy that gave Cuban migrants favoured immigration status – both by eliminating an escape route for dissatisfied citizens and by reducing potential future remittances.

The end of charismatic leadership

When Fidel fell gravely ill in July 2006, he provisionally delegated his dual posts – president of the Council of State and first secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba – to his younger brother Raúl, long-time head of the Revolutionary Armed Forces and second secretary of the Communist Party. As Fidel’s health further deteriorated, the National Assembly made Raúl president in February 2008.

This move kept succession within the family, but Raúl has rejected any Kim dynasty-style future for the country. If ten years ago Cuba looked more like North Korea than China, today the opposite is true.

Leadership and ideology in surviving communist systems in 2016. Created by author.

Breaking with Fidel’s decades-old practice, Raúl recommended to the delegates of the sixth Party Congress in April 2011 that they limit public officials to a maximum of two five-year terms; this soon became the official Party line.

In the short term, term limits meant that Raúl Castro’s presidency would end in February 2018, which he has confirmed. In the long term, that raised questions on the post-Castro era. To be sure, in 2013 Miguel Díaz-Canel, a Communist Party insider, was promoted to first vice president of the Council of State – the first time ever that a revolutionary veteran did not hold that position. Technically, according to the Cuban constitution, if the president dies, the first vice-president takes over.

The seventh Party Congress, held in April 2016, nonetheless appointed Raúl Castro to be first secretary. While this does keep a revolutionary veteran in control of a key post after 2018, for the first time the head of the Cuba’s Communist Party will not be the same person as Cuba’s president.

The rise of market socialism

Market socialism can be defined as “an attempt to reconcile the advantages of the market as a system of exchange with social ownership of the means of production.”

As if following this definition from the Oxford Dictionary of Social Sciences, the sixth Party Congress approved that from now on “planning will take the market into account, influencing upon it and considering its characteristics.”

This is a clumsy engagement with the market, treating it as an alien from outer space. And it epitomises the current ideological hardships of the Cuban regime.  Still, Raúl Castro has overseen the largest expansion of non-state socioeconomic activity in socialist Cuba’s 50-year history.

Cuba’s National Office of Statistics reports that in 2015 71% of Cuban workers were state employees, down from 80% in 2007, and the number of (mostly urban) self-employed workers has grown from 141,600 in 2008 to half a million in 2015. In a country with a total workforce of five million, this is not a trivial change.

From 2008 to 2014, more than 1.58 million hectares of idle land has been transferred into private hands. That’s nearly a quarter of Cuba’s 6.2 million hectares of agricultural land, roughly on par with state-owned land (30%).

In sum, the market is no longer the enemy, it’s a junior partner in Cuban central planning. The last Party Congress, Cuba’s seventh, approved the continuity of controlled liberalisation efforts by turning market socialism into Communist Party doctrine, stating that “the State recognises and integrates the market into the functioning of the system of planned direction of the economy.”

The new Cuban polity

The rise of market-socialist ideology emerged, to a substantial extent, from the decline of charismatic authority.

Cuba’s next generation of leaders –- expected to take over in 2018 -– will not enjoy the same unquestionable legitimacy as its founding fathers, much less that of Fidel Castro. So the inevitable passing of the revolutionaries still in power today, most of whom are in their 80s, makes the already difficult process of revamping the regime even tougher.

Raúl Castro’s challenge over the past decade has thus been not only to make his presidency stand on solid ground, but also to make sure that such a ground endures after he leaves. The question of economic performance was clearly central to that task. Raúl saw market socialism as a way to strengthen Cuba’s economy without abandoning its Castro-era ideals. The revolutionary veterans’ interest in seeing the system they built survive is unsurprising, and it explains their rejection of any capitalist encroachments. But it remains to be seen how long – and if – this ideological limit will survive them.

Let’s return to the earlier chart presenting a comparison of surviving Communist countries at present. It shows Cuba today, after ten years of Raúl, located somewhere in between North Korea (where an orthodox Soviet-style economy is still firmly entrenched) and countries such as China and Vietnam that have seen capitalism restored, and somewhat closer to the latter.

But the difference between “medium” market acceptance and “high” market acceptance is a substantial one. The latter presupposes a comeback of the bourgeoisie – the social class of owners of the means of production, expropriated by Castro’s revolution – and thus far this key ideological limit remains strong in Cuba.

Since the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991, many have assumed that the fall of communist Cuba is a matter of when not if. Only by abandoning the focus on “the fall” and understanding how communist rule has survived in Cuba we can grasp that Cuba has already changed mightily.

Welcome to the second decade of the post-Fidel era.

Some Cuenta-propistas, January 2015, Photos by Arch Ritter

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CAN DONALD TRUMP AND RAÚL CASTRO MAKE A GOOD DEAL

By JORGE I. DOMÍNGUEZ, New York Times JAN., 10, 2017

Original Article: Trump-Castro Deal?

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Cuba operates as if it had two parties, President Raúl Castro joked in his main report to the Seventh Congress of the Cuban Communist Party last April: “Fidel leads one and I, the other.”

This was more than just a joke: Fidel Castro, Raúl Castro’s brother and the former president, had criticized President Obama’s visit to Havana a month earlier in official publications. It was the first public split between the brothers on an issue of such importance. President Obama’s Cuba policy change, announced in December 2014, drove a wedge through the Cuban leadership, making manifest the differences between government hard-liners and soft-liners. For the balance of 2016, the hard-liners dominated official communications, republishing tales of American perfidy over the previous two centuries. During the same period, however, Raúl Castro’s senior team negotiated and signed many practical agreements to alter American-Cuban relations.

Fidel Castro is now dead; the ossified government he nurtured is vanishing as well. Since taking power in 2008, Raúl Castro has made many domestic and foreign policy changes that happen to be in line with key foreign policy priorities of the American president-elect, Donald J. Trump, and at the same time open up Cuba’s economy, and society. A deal-making Trump presidency will find a deal-honoring Raúl Castro presidency. The agreements that the Trump administration will inherit, reached under Mr. Trump’s three predecessors, serve both the interests of the United States and Cuba as well as the presumed Trump presidential agenda. Reversing or scaling back such agreements, as Mr. Trump has threatened to do, will make it more difficult for him to fulfill that agenda.

Last year, more than half a million visitors from the United States had set foot in Cuba and American commercial airlines now fly regularly between the United States and Cuban cities. Earlier in the Obama presidency, the United States government liberalized rules on sending money transfers to Cuba, and much of it informally financed the re-emergence of a Cuban private business sector. The number of small- business licenses now exceeds a half-million in a country of 11.2 million people. Money transfers from the United States fund a Cuban civil society independent of the state for the first time in a half-century.

Recent agreements between the two countries make it easier for them to cooperate on hurricane tracking and biodiversity protection, share information on pollution and undertake joint maritime geological exploration. Other agreements protect migratory birds and fish. Cuba and the United States now also work together on cancer research, in which Cuban scientists have registered significant advances, and on the prevention and cure of infectious diseases, including combating the Zika epidemic, in which Cuba is a worldwide example of effectiveness.

Cuba and the United States have long cooperated on security matters, coordinating on security around the United States Navy base at Guantánamo Bay. Since the mid-1990s, the two countries have worked together to prevent undocumented migration. Cuba patrols its ports to prevent anyone from stealing boats and rafts; at its airports, it checks for valid visas among those about to board. United States Coast Guard cutters intercept undocumented migrants in the Straits of Florida and return them to Cuba.

The two countries have informally combined efforts on drug traffic interdiction since the 1990s, and this was formalized last July; Cuba provides an effective barrier against drug traffic into the United States.

And Cuba long ago adopted the Trump-preferred migration policy: seek to stop the departure and accept the return of undocumented migrants.

Suppose you are the United States president-elect. What is not to like?

Still, while economic agreements emphasize the two countries’ equality, some of the deals couldn’t be more lopsided. Only American airlines fly between the two countries; Cubana de Aviación does not. And since late 2002, Cuba has purchased about $5.3 billion worth of United States agricultural products, paying cash, while exporting almost no goods to the United States.

What’s wrong with agreements already in place that benefit both countries? The United States wants to warn Florida and the Carolinas about hurricane trajectories, its fowl and fish to winter in Cuba’s Caribbean waters and come back, and to benefit from Cuba’s scientific expertise. Cuba and the United States are interested in exploring for oil in the Gulf of Mexico and have agreed to track seismic threats beneath the gulf’s waters to prevent oil spills.

On delicate issues, President George W. Bush and Fidel Castro, and later President Obama and Raúl Castro, developed ways of agreeing substantively while publicly denying any negotiation had taken place. That diplomatic ruse worked. In 2002, the Cubans induced the Bush administration to begin exporting American agricultural products; each side made it known that these were unilateral, independent and sovereign decisions. In December 2012, the United States and Cuba did not trade spies; rather, each made unilateral, independent and sovereign decisions to release some of the other’s prisoners.

Slowly, United States-Cuba relations got better. That serves Cubans who may travel more easily, receive friends, rent space through Airbnb, and get working capital through money transfers to establish private businesses and fund an independent civil society. That serves Americans who benefit from freer travel and cooperation on issues such as migration, crime and drug trafficking. What next? Rely on unilateral, independent and sovereign Cuban decisions to foster change.

Here’s how Raúl Castro’s joke ended at the April party congress: “Fidel will certainly say, ‘I want to lead the Communist Party,’ and I will say, ‘O.K., I’ll lead the other one, the name does not matter.’ ” If you are a Cuban hard-liner, that joke is terrifying. President Raúl Castro is prepared to open the gateway to something different, less dogmatic, whose name neither he nor we know. But we know what it is not. It is not called “Communist.”

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HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH 2017 REPORT on CUBA

Original Article: Human Rights Watch 2017 on Cuba:

Summary:

The Cuban government continues to repress dissent and punish public criticism. It now relies less than in past years on long-term prison sentences to punish its critics, but short-term arbitrary arrests of human rights defenders, independent journalists, and others have increased dramatically in recent years. Other repressive tactics employed by the government include beatings, public shaming, and termination of employment.

On November 25, Fidel Castro, who ruled Cuba from 1959 until handing off the presidency to his brother, Raúl, in 2006, died in Havana.

In March, US President Barack Obama visited Cuba, where he met with President Raúl Castro, as well as with representatives of Cuban civil society. President Obama gave a nationally televised address and held a joint press conference with President Castro in which he urged the Cuban government to lift restrictions on political freedoms and reiterated his call for the US Congress to end the economic embargo of the island.

Arbitrary Detention and Short-Term Imprisonment

The government continues to rely on arbitrary detention to harass and intimidate critics, independent activists, political opponents, and others. The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, an independent human rights group that lacks official authorization and is therefore considered illegal by the government, received more than 7,900 reports of arbitrary detentions from January through August 2016. This represents the highest monthly average of detentions in the past six years.

Security officers rarely present arrest orders to justify the detention of critics. In some cases, detainees are released after receiving official warnings, which prosecutors can use in subsequent criminal trials to show a pattern of “delinquent” behavior.

Detention is often used preemptively to prevent people from participating in peaceful marches or meetings to discuss politics. Detainees are often beaten, threatened, and held incommunicado for hours or days. The Ladies in White (Damas de Blanco)—a group founded by the wives, mothers, and daughters of political prisoners also, like the Cuban Commission on Human Rights, lacks official authorization and is therefore considered illegal by the government. Its members are routinely harassed, roughed up, and detained by either police or state security agents before or after they attend Sunday mass.

Prior to President Obama’s visit in March, police arrested more than 300 dissidents as part of a crackdown on opposition leaders.

Freedom of Expression

The government controls virtually all media outlets in Cuba and restricts access to outside information.  A small number of journalists and bloggers who are independent of government media manage to write articles for websites or blogs, or publish tweets. However, the government routinely blocks access within Cuba to these websites. Moreover, only a fraction of Cubans can read independent websites and blogs because of the high cost of, and limited access to, the internet. Independent journalists who publish information considered critical of the government are subject to smear campaigns and arbitrary arrests, as are artists and academics who demand greater freedoms.

Lazaro Yuri Valle Roca, a blogger and videographer who often covers the Sunday demonstrations of the Ladies in White, was jailed for five days after trying to cover a protest on March 20, the day of President Obama’s arrival in Cuba. Police officers apprehended Valle Roca, beat him, and took him to a nearby police station, according to Aliuska Gómez García, a member of the Ladies in White who witnessed the beating and arrest and spoke afterwards to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Valle Roca was later accused of attacking an official. While he did not face charges on this occasion, officers warned him that he might if arrested in the future.

In May, police detained journalist Daniel Domínguez López in his office at the Cuban Institute for Freedom of Speech and Press (ICLEP) after he wrote an article about a deprivation-of-property case involving a member of the National Revolutionary Police Force. Police ultimately took him to a “criminal instruction unit,” where he said that they threatened to imprison or kill him and his family. Officers reportedly warned him against further distribution of his bulletin and told him that they were determined to destroy ICLEP.

Police in October detained Maykel González Vivero, a reporter of the news site Diario de Cuba, while he was reporting on the damage caused by Hurricane Matthew. Three days later, police arrested Elaine Díaz, director of the independent news site Periodismo del Barrio and four of her colleagues when they traveled to Baracoa, eastern Cuba, to report on the storm’s effects. She and her team were released a few hours later, as was González, but authorities reportedly confiscated their laptop computers, cameras, and other equipment.

The government harasses artists as well. Police detained Danilo Maldonado, a graffiti artist known as “El Sexto,” during a march led by the Ladies in White movement shortly before President Obama’s visit in March 2016, but released him the following day. The day after Fidel Castro’s death in November, police arrested Maldonado again after he posted an online video mocking Castro’s death and spray painting “se fue” (he’s gone) on a wall in downtown Havana. Police held him incommunicado for 72 hours, inflicting a beating that triggered an asthma attack. After his mother brought an inhaler, his detention continued. He was still detained at time of writing in early December. Two years earlier, Maldonado had been charged with “contempt for authority” for attempting to stage a satirical performance with two pigs daubed with “Raul” and “Fidel.” He served 10 months in prison.

Political Prisoners

Despite the release of the 53 political prisoners in conjunction with the agreement to normalize relations with the US, dozens more remain in Cuban prisons, according to local human rights groups. The government denies access to its prisons by independent human rights groups, which believe that additional political prisoners, whose cases they cannot document, remain locked up.

Cubans who criticize the government continue to face the threat of criminal prosecution. They do not benefit from due process guarantees, such as the right to fair and public hearings by a competent and impartial tribunal. In practice, courts are subordinated to the executive and legislative branches, denying meaningful judicial independence.

Travel Restrictions

Reforms to travel regulations that went into effect in January 2013 eliminated the need for an exit visa to leave the island. Exit visas had previously been used to deny the right to travel to people critical of the government—and to their families. Since then, many people who had previously been denied permission to travel have been able to do so, including human rights defenders and independent bloggers.

Nonetheless, the reforms gave the government broad discretionary powers to restrict the right to travel on the grounds of “defense and national security” or “other reasons of public interest.” Such measures have allowed authorities to deny exit to people who express dissent.

The government restricts the movement of citizens within Cuba through a 1997 law known as Decree 217, which is designed to limit migration to Havana. The decree has been used to harass dissidents and prevent those from elsewhere in Cuba from traveling to Havana to attend meetings.

Prison Conditions

Prisons are overcrowded. Prisoners are forced to work 12-hour days and punished if they do not meet production quotas, according to former political prisoners. Inmates have no effective complaint mechanism to seek redress for abuses. Those who criticize the government or engage in hunger strikes and other forms of protest are often subjected to extended solitary confinement, beatings, restrictions on family visits, and denied medical care.

While the government allowed select members of the foreign press to conduct controlled visits to a handful of prisons in April 2013, it continues to deny international human rights groups and independent Cuban organizations access to its prisons.

Labor Rights

Despite updating its Labor Code in 2014, Cuba continues to violate conventions of the International Labour Organization that it has ratified, specifically regarding freedom of association, collective bargaining, protection of wages, and prohibitions on forced labor. While the formation of independent unions is technically allowed by law, in practice Cuba only permits one confederation of state-controlled unions, the Workers’ Central Union of Cuba.

Human Rights Defenders

The Cuban government still refuses to recognize human rights monitoring as a legitimate activity and denies legal status to local human rights groups. Government authorities harass, assault, and imprison human rights defenders who attempt to document abuses.

In September, police raided Cubalex, a six-year-old organization that investigates human rights violations and provides free legal services to free-expression activists, migrants, and human-rights defenders. Officers confiscated files, strip-searched four men and a woman, and arrested two attorneys, one of whom was still in detention at time of writing.

Key International Actors

In December 2014, President Obama announced that the United States would ease decades-old restrictions on travel and commerce, and normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba. In return, the Cuban government released 53 political prisoners and committed to allowing visits by international human rights monitors. The two governments restored diplomatic relations in July 2015, but at time of writing, no international human rights monitors had visited Cuba.

In January 2015, President Obama called on the US Congress to lift the economic embargo on the island that had been imposed more than four decades earlier. In October 2016, he used executive orders to end a few trade restrictions, including the longstanding $100 import limit on two of Cuba’s signature products: cigars and rum.

In September 2016, the European Union approved an agreement with Cuba that would strengthen economic and political ties and bring an end to the EU’s 1996 “Common Position on Cuba,” which conditions full European Union economic cooperation with Cuba on the country’s transition to a pluralist democracy and respect for human rights. In October, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution—for the 25th consecutive year—calling on the US to end the embargo. Only the US and Israel did not vote in favor, but for the first time, they abstained instead of voting against.

As a member of the UN Human Rights Council from 2006 to 2012 and from 2014 to the present, Cuba has regularly voted to prevent scrutiny of serious human rights abuses around the world—opposing resolutions spotlighting abuses in North Korea, Syria, Iran, and Ukraine. However, Cuba supported a resolution adopted by the council in June 2016, establishing the post of an independent expert to combat violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

In October, Cuba was re-elected to the Human Rights Council for the 2017-2019 term.

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EL LEGADO DE FIDEL: BALANCE ECONÓMICO SOCIAL EN 2016

A fin de enmendar el legado de Fidel, a Raúl le queda poco más de un año para acelerar y profundizar sus reformas estructurales.

Fidel Surveying Havana from the Cabana Fortress

Por Carmelo Mesa Lago, Nueva Sociedad, Enero 2017

Original Article: El legado de Fidel: balance económico social en 2016

Con motivo del deceso de Fidel Castro, los medios de comunicación mundiales han ensalzado su legado de soberanía política interna y su rol internacionalista, así como las notables mejoras en la educación y la salud, aunque el juicio es usualmente adverso en cuanto a la economía. En una previa publicación hice un balance económico social de medio siglo de Fidel en el poder (1959-2008) usando 87 indicadores que demostraban que el desempeño económico fue generalmente negativo y el social mezclado alcanzando una cima en 1989 y un deterioro después.1 Aquí se evalúa la situación entre 1989 y 2016, poniendo énfasis en la última década. También se evalúa si las reformas estructurales de Raúl en el último decenio han logrado dar un impulso a la economía y al bienestar social en la Isla

Entre 1960 y 1990 Cuba recibió US$65.000 millones de la URSS, dos tercios de los cuales no era reembolsable; esta ayuda fue superior a la recibida por toda América Latina durante la Alianza para el Progreso. Tras la desaparición del socialismo soviético (el «Período Especial») ocurrió un marcado declive en todos los indicadores económicos y sociales, seguido de cierta recuperación especialmente a comienzos del siglo XXI por la substancial ayuda económica de Venezuela, la cual equivalió al 21% del PIB de Cuba en 20102.He sugerido que a fin de mejorar el pobrísimo desempeño económico es primordial avanzar en las reformas estructurales de Raúl, mientras que los benéficos pero costosos servicios sociales deben hacerse sostenibles financieramente a largo plazo.

En múltiples publicaciones he analizado las reformas estructurales implementadas por Raúl entre 2007/08 y 2016, concluyendo que son las más importantes bajo la revolución, intentan resolver los problemas heredados de Fidel y están bien encaminadas, pero son excesivamente lentas, enfrentan severas trabas, altos impuestos y desincentivos, por cuyas razones no han logrado hasta ahora un impacto palpable en la economía y en los servicios sociales; de hecho ha ocurrido un retroceso en algunas reformas3. La grave crisis económica en la República Bolivariana ha contribuido a esos problemas.

La tasa de crecimiento económico cubana que fue de 12% en 2006, en buena medida por el apoyo económico venezolano, ha exhibido desde entonces una tendencia declinante: 4,4% en 2015 y -0,9% en 2016,4 un quinto de la meta inicial fijada a fines de 2015. La formación bruta de capital promedió 13% anual en 2008-2015, la mitad del requerido 25% para un crecimiento económico sostenido. El índice de producción industrial en 2015 estaba 38% por debajo de 1989; la caída fue más acentuada en fertilizantes (95%), azúcar (80%), cemento (60%), acero (29%) y textiles (25%); por lo contrario, la producción de petróleo, gas natural, electricidad y níquel era superior (pero la última 26% menor que en 2008). Similar declive se observa en la agricultura: cítricos (88%), pesca (70%), leche de vaca (56%), tabaco en rama (42%), arroz (22%), cabezas de ganado (18%) y huevos (13%); sólo eran mayores las hortalizas y los tubérculos. Las estadísticas del sector externo en 2015, comparadas con las 2014, indican una agudización de la crisis: las exportaciones de mercancías cayeron 31%, las exportaciones de servicios profesionales (primer ingreso en divisas de Cuba y vendidos mayormente a Venezuela) mermaron 18%, y el excedente entre el saldo positivo de servicios menos el saldo negativo de mercancías menguó 47%5. Si esto ocurrió cuando la economía creció 4,4%, el deterioro debe haber sido mayor en 2016 con la contracción. Cuba atraviesa la peor crisis desde los años 90.

Las reformas estructurales han tenido efectos adversos en los indicadores sociales. Entre 2008 y 2015, con el fin de recortar el insostenible costo social, la asignación a servicios sociales (educación, salud, pensiones, vivienda, asistencia social) decreció de 55% a 47% del presupuesto y de 37% al 28% del PIB. El salario medio estatal ajustado a la inflación en 2008 era 25% del nivel de 1989 y, aunque aumentó a 38% en 2015, el poder adquisitivo era 62% inferior a 19896. La pensión media en 2008-2015 era la mitad que en 1989. Todos los hospitales rurales y postas urbanas y rurales se cerraron en 2011; entre 2008-2015, el número de hospitales decreció 30%, el personal de salud total menguó 22%, los médicos de familia que proveen la atención primaria se redujeron en 65%, por otra parte el número de médicos creció en 15% (aunque parte está en el extranjero), la mortalidad infantil continuó bajando de 4,7 a 4,3 por mil nacidos vivos, y la tasa de mortalidad materna mermó de 46,5 a 41,6 por 100.000 nacimientos (pero aún mayor que 29,2 en 1989). La matrícula universitaria decreció de 743.979 a 165.926 (78%) entre los cursos 2007/08 y 2015/16. La construcción de viviendas declinó de 44.775 a 23.003 entre 2008 y 2015 y por 1.000 habitantes cayó de 4,0 a 2,0. La asignación a la asistencia social disminuyó de 2,1% del presupuesto a 0,4% y como porcentaje de la población de 5,2% a 1,6%7. La tasa de desempleo declarado que llegó a un mínimo de 1,6% en 2008, creció a 3,5% en 2012 por causa del programa de despedido de 1,8 millones de empleados estatales innecesarios, pero sólo medio millón fue despedido y la tasa disminuyó a 2,4% en 20158. Cuba nunca ha publicado estadísticas sobre distribución del ingreso, pero otros indicadores sugieren que se colocaba a la cabeza de la región en igualdad; las reformas han cambiado diametralmente la situación, debido a un grupo no estatal con altos ingresos y la caída en el salario estata9.

Un importante avance ha sido la condonación o reducción de la mayor parte de la deuda externa por los acreedores; Cuba comenzó a pagar la deuda restante en octubre de 2016 y se ignora si podrá continuar haciéndolo. El aspecto más brillante es el turismo. La normalización de relaciones con los EEUU y las órdenes ejecutivas de Obama, virtualmente han abierto la puerta a los visitantes norteamericanos que saltaron de 95.254 en 2004 a 161.233 en 2015 y a cerca de 200.000 en 2016; además todos los otros principales emisores han crecido, por lo cual el total de visitantes subió 17% en 2015 y alcanzó 4 millones en 2016; así mismo, los ingresos brutos por turismo crecieron 11% en 2015 y se proyecta que alcanzarán los US$4.000 millones en 2016.

En el balance, los factores adversos sobrepasan con creces a los favorables y 2017 será muy tenso. A fin de enmendar el legado de Fidel, a Raúl le queda poco más de un año para acelerar y profundizar sus reformas estructurales. Si Trump revierte las medidas de Obama y no avanzan las reformas, la crisis se agravará en Cuba.

The Cross-harbour Ferry from the Steps of the Russian Orthodox Church

  1. C. Mesa-Lago: Cuba en la era de Raúl Castro: Reformas económico-sociales y sus efectos, Colibrí, Madrid, 2012.
  2. C. Mesa-Lago: «Institutional Changes in Cuba’s Economic and Social Reforms» en R. Feinberg y T. Piccone (comps.): Cuba Economic Change in Comparative Perspective, Brookings Institution / Universidad de La Habana, Washington, DC, 2014, pp. 49-69; «El lento avance de la reforma” en Política ExteriorNº 171, 5-6/2016, pp. 94-104; y con R.Veiga, L. González, S. Vera y A. Pérez-Liñán: Voces de cambio en el sector estatal cubano, Iberoamericana, Madrid, 2016.
  3. Raúl Castro Ruz, Discurso en la clausura de la Asamblea Nacional del Poder Popular, Granma, 28 diciembre 2016, p.3.
  4. Cálculos del autor basados en Oficina Nacional de Estadísticas e Información (ONEI): Anuario estadístico de Cuba 2015, La Habana, 2016; datod de 1989, del Comité Estatal de Estadística: Anuario Estadístico de Cuba 1989, La Habana, 1991.
  5. La CEPAL, Balance preliminar de las economías de América Latina y el Caribe 2016, Santiago de Chile, diciembre 2016, cuadro 4.4, estima un crecimiento de 43% en el salario medio real, el mayor en la región, pero con base en el año 2010 cuando estaba 27% por debajo del nivel de 1989
  6. Cálculos del autor basados en ONEI: Anuario Estadístico de Cuba 2008, La Habana, 2009, y cit.
  7. Basado en C. Mesa-Lago: «El desempleo en Cuba: de oculto a visible” en Espacio LaicalNº 4, 2010, pp. 59-66, y ONEI: Anuario 2015, cit.

8. C. Mesa Lago: «La desigualdad del ingreso y la experiencia de América Latina” en Temas Nº 84, 10-12/2015, pp. 35-43

A Few of Cuba’s Amazingly Talented Musicians

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CUBAN AMERICAN LOST HIS BUSINESS BID AFTER OBTAINING PERMANENT RESIDENCE IN CUBA

Saul Berenthal

BY NORA GÁMEZ TORRES, Miami Herald, 9 January 2012

Original Article: CUBAN AMERICAN LOST HIS BUSINESS BID

Saul Berenthal was to become the first Cuban American investor on the island with a plan to assemble tractors to help small farmers. But his full embrace of his Cuban roots backfired.

The tale of Cleber LLC, a U.S. company that wants to assemble farm tractors in the Mariel Special Development Zone near Havana, is one example of the questions the island’s government will have to face if it wants to attract investments from the Cuban diaspora.

President Barack Obama described the proposal in March by Cleber, owned by Cuban American businessman Saul Berenthal and his partner, Horace Clemmons, as the first business with 100 percent U.S. capital authorized to invest in Cuba in more than half a century.

The goal was to assemble — and in the future produce from the ground up — a line of tractors for small-scale farmers under the Oggun brand, using Cuban labor for the benefit of the Cuban people, Berenthal told the Granma newspaper, official voice of the Cuban Communist Party, in April.

The paper published a report on Berenthal and Clemmons, and praised their idea of using the Open Source Manufacturing Model, which allows easier sourcing of materials. The Juventud Rebelde newspaper earlier published a report on the U.S. investors all but predicting the Cuban government would approve their project.

But Berenthal was told during the Havana International Fair, a business exhibition held Oct. 31-Nov. 4, that the proposal had been rejected.  Berenthal told el Nuevo Herald that the project “was not canceled. More than anything else, it was not authorized.”

The real reason for the rejection was that Berenthal, a 73-year-old retired software engineer who was born in Cuba and lived in the United States since 1960, had obtained permanent residence in Cuba, according to a knowledgeable source who asked for anonymity to speak about the issue.

“Saul got enthusiastic,” the source told el Nuevo Herald.

Berenthal’s “repatriation” put the Cuban government in a difficult position: accept the project, even though it would break its own ban on large investments by Cubans who live on the island, or reject it using an indirect argument. Officials chose the second option.

Berenthal said the government told him the proposal did not meet the Mariel requirements on technology and worker safety.

Berenthal said his repatriation had nothing to do with the government’s decision “because they were aware from the beginning” of his efforts to become a permanent residence. He added that the rejection of the Mariel project “does not mean we will not continue with the project. They suggested we contact the Agriculture Ministry.”  Berenthal’s legal residence on the island — which gave him the right to buy property and obtain free medical care, among other perks — put him at odds with laws that forbid Cubans who live on the island from establishing medium or large-scale companies.

The Justice Ministry’s web pages notes that the Cuban government does not recognize dual citizenship and follows the principle of “effective nationality.” That means a person with dual citizenship, such as Cuban Americans, can exercise only one when they are on the island.  “That does not mean a Cuban citizen cannot have another citizenship, but the valid one here is ours,” the ministry notes.

Although the Cuban constitution does not recognize the right of citizens living abroad to return and reunite with their families, they can be allowed to re-establish permanent residence and recover the benefits the government cancels for those it considers to have emigrated. Cubans with U.S. citizenship who return and re-establish permanent residence are therefore considered to be Cuban citizens only, subject to Cuban laws and regulations.

The Cuban ambassador in Washington, José Ramón Cabañas, told an interviewer in October that more than 13,000 Cubans living in the United States had been approved for repatriation in the previous two years. More applications were being processed, he added.

The impact on the U.S. status of Cubans who repatriate “is zero,” said immigration lawyer Wilfredo Allen. “The problem is that Cuba controls you.”

That control means, as in Berenthal’s case, that those 13,000 Cuban Americans who returned cannot invest their money in Cuban companies — even though the country’s Foreign Investment Law leaves open the possibility that Cubans with other nationalities may invest in areas such as tourism or energy.

Private sector workers in Cuba, known as cuentapropistas (self-employed), are licensed only to work for themselves and cannot legally establish companies to expand their work beyond a small scale. Larger enterprises are allowed only for the government and foreigners.

According to a report on the foreign investment law produced by the National Organization of Cuban Law Firms, “Cuban citizens residing in the country cannot participate as partners in a joint venture.” The report added: “This law is designed to favor ‘foreign investors’ or Cubans living outside the country.”

Cuban American economist Carmelo Mesa Lago said those restrictions are counterproductive, especially at a time when the island’s economy is shrinking.

Cuba’s Economy Minister Ricardo Cabrisas has said that only 6.5 percent of investments planned for 2017 are tied to foreign capital. The Cuban government estimates that it needs $2.5 billion in annual investments for economic growth.

“It is totally crazy. The level (of foreign investments) they are receiving is absolutely minimal,” Mesa Lago told el Nuevo Herald. “The government needs investments in all sectors. They have set priorities and have more interest in big investments than in medium investments, and that is totally absurd.

“They need all kinds of investments,” he added. “Cubans who have the capacity to invest, based on their profits … that should be allowed.”

 

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EIGHT MYTHS ABOUT OBAMA’S OPENING TO CUBA

William M. LeoGrande , Professor of Government at American University, Washington D.C.

9 January 20017, Huffington Post.

Original here: EIGHT MYTHS 

Opponents of President Obama’s opening to Cuba have taken full advantage of the fact-free character of recent political debate in the United States to spread a variety of myths aimed at discrediting Obama’s Cuba policy and convincing President Trump to reverse it. Here are eight of them:

Myth 1: The United States has gotten nothing in return for concessions made to Cuba.

The December 17, 2014 agreement resulted in the release of USAID subcontractor Alan Gross, CIA asset Rolando Sarraff Trujillo, and 53 political prisoners. That’s not nothing.

Since December 2014, the United States and Cuba have signed fifteen bilateral agreements on issues of mutual interest that benefit both countries, including environmental protection, health cooperation, counter-narcotics cooperation, and disaster prevention and response.

The restoration of diplomatic relations benefits the United States as well as Cuba. It allows U.S. diplomats to provide better counselor services to U.S. visitors and Cuban immigrants, to have broader interaction with Cuban civil society, including dissidents, and to travel all over the island to assess conditions outside Havana and to verify Cuban compliance with 1995 migration accord. If we break relations, the United States will have no diplomatic representation in Havana, whereas the Cubans will still have their UN mission in New York.

Obama’s relaxation of travel regulations restores, in part, U.S. citizens’ constitutional right to travel which the Supreme Court has said should only be abridge for compelling reasons of national security.

Obama’s relaxation of restrictions on trade has focused mainly on trade with Cuba’s private sector and trade that benefits Cuban consumers. Expanded trade benefits U.S. businesses and generates jobs, which is why hundreds of companies have been investigating opportunities there. Continued restrictions simply open the door to European and Asian competitors.

Removal of Cuba from the State Department’s list of state sponsors of international terrorism was not a concession, but rather an acknowledgement, backed by the intelligence community, that Cuba no longer fit the statutory designation to be classified as a state sponsor. Ending the designation opened the door to cooperation on countering terrorism and transnational crime through the bilateral law enforcement dialogue. It also enabled the United States and Cuba to cooperate to reach a peaceful settlement of the war in Colombia, the last remaining insurgency in Latin America.

The opening to Cuba dramatically improved U.S. relations with allies across the hemisphere, where the old policy had become an obstacle to cooperation on issues like narcotics trafficking, migration, and trade.

Myth 2: Obama rescued the Cuban regime from economic and political collapse that was imminent because of the collapse of Venezuela.

Even without Venezuelan oil, the Cuban economy is not on the verge of collapse. Pavel Vidal, a respected Cuban economist now living abroad, estimates the loss of Venezuelan oil will cause a 2.9% fall in Cuba’s GDP in 2017. By contrast, Cuban GDP fell 35% during the 1990s when Cuba lost Soviet aid and the regime did not collapse. The Venezuelan shock will hurt, but is not a matter of life and death.

Economic benefits to Cuba from the U.S. opening have been modest, limited to the increase in non-Cuban American U.S. visitors following December 17. Although the number has grown from 91,000 in 2014 to 267,000 in 2016, U.S. visitors still represent less than 7% of the four million foreigners who visited Cuban in 2016—hardly enough to make the difference between economic survival and collapse.

The principal U.S. economic sanctions on investment and trade with Cuba remain in place. U.S. investment is prohibited except in very narrow areas like telecommunications. Cuban state enterprises cannot export to the U.S. market except in the pharmaceuticals sector. U.S. businesses cannot sell to Cuban state enterprises except consumer goods and services for the general public.

Myth 3: The Cuban people do not benefit from tourism; all the money goes to the government.

Even if all the revenue from tourism did go to the government—which it does not—the expansion of the tourist industry generates jobs at the airports, hotels, restaurants, etc., and has a multiplier effect in local communities. This is plainly visible in the relative prosperity of towns near tourist locales outside Havana vs. towns off the tourist track.

Work in the state tourist sector is highly sought after by Cubans because it offers access to convertible currency tips that make it possible to have a decent standard of living. As of 2014, 755,600 Cubans worked in tourism representing 15.2% of the labor force—an increase of 16.9% since 2009. These numbers don’t take into account the increase in U.S. visitors in the past two years.

Private restaurants and B&B rentals are proliferating, with most of the high-end ones catering primarily to foreign visitors. Most of the licenses for self-employment are for restaurants and casas particulares, which together comprise the backbone of the urban private sector That is why some of Cuba’s most prominent private entrepreneurs have urged President Trump not to reverse President Obama’s opening to Cuba.

Myth 4: Obama betrayed the Cuban people and Cuban dissidents to partner with the government.

The Cuban people don’t feel betrayed by Obama’s opening to Cuba; they support it overwhelmingly. In an independent poll commissioned by the Washington Post, 97% of Cuban respondents thought better relations with the United States were “good for Cuba.” Lest you think people were afraid to respond honestly, 48% of these same respondents expressed unfavorable opinions of Raúl Castro and 50% expressed negative opinions of Fidel Castro.

Even among Cuban dissidents, there are those who support Obama’s policy because they see it as helping to create greater political space on the island and undercutting the government’s excuse for limiting political liberties.

Myth 5: The human rights situation in Cuba has gotten worse since December 17, 2014.

The human rights situation in Cuba has not improved for dissidents, but it has improved for everyone else. The Cuban Commission of Human Rights and National Reconciliation tracks arrests of political dissidents and reports that the number in 2014 (before Obama’s policy change) was 8899; in 2015, it was 8616; and in 2016, it was 9940. Typically, people arrested are detained for several hours and released without being charged, so many of the reported arrests are of the same people being detained repeatedly. On this measure, the Cuban government’s human rights record has not improved since U.S. policy changed. However, in previous years, dissidents were frequently charge with serious crimes and sentenced to long prison terms, a practice that has become much less common.

In its 2015/2016 annual report, State of the World’s Human Rights, Amnesty International criticized Cuba’s continuing denial of political liberties, but reported that Cuba had released all of the people Amnesty had designated “prisoners of conscience.”

Cubans today than have greater economic and personal freedom than they had several years ago— freedom to start their own businesses, buy and sell real estate, own computers and cell phones, and travel abroad.

Cubans have far greater access to information as a result of expanded Internet availability, a change that came directly out of the negotiations that produced the December 2014 change in U.S. policy. Internet expansion has also led to the proliferation of independent blogs and digital media sites critical of the government.

Myth 6: Cuba is strategically insignificant, so there’s nothing to lose by taking a tough position demanding democracy.

Cuba and the United States cooperate to combat narcotics trafficking and human smuggling and trafficking through the Caribbean, two of the most important security issues facing the United States in Latin America. That cooperation could be crippled by a return to the policy of hostility.

A return to the policy of hostility would alienate Latin America, whose active cooperation the United States needs to deal with transnational issues like drug trafficking, migration, and environmental protection.

China and Russia are both seeking to expand their influence not just in Cuba, but in the Latin American region. A return to the policy of hostility would give Cuba an incentive to cooperate more closely with China and Russia in strategic as well as economic spheres. It would also provide China and Russia with new opportunities in Latin America generally.

Myth 7: The Castros are creating a family dynasty like North Korea.

Cuba has a constitutional succession process, and neither Fidel nor Raúl Castro’s children are positioned to succeed them.

None of Fidel Castro’s children have positions of political authority.

Raúl Castro’s son Alejandro Castro serves on his personal staff and was responsible for negotiating the agreement with the United States announced on December 17, 2014. He is obviously a trusted aide. But he is only a colonel in the Ministry of the Interior. He is not a member of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party, let alone the Political Bureau, where the key decisions are made. He is not among the 600+ deputies in the National Assembly, let alone its executive body, the Council of State. There is no evidence that he is in line to succeed his father a year from now, as some people speculate.

Raúl’s daughter, Mariela Castro, heads the Cuban National Center for Sex Education and has been an outspoken advocate for LGBT rights. She is a member of the National Assembly, but not of the Party Central Committee, and has confined her public work to issues of sexuality.

Colonel Luis Alberto Rodríguez, head of the economic branch of the armed forces which manages a number of major economic enterprises, is Raúl Castro’s son-in-law. He is a member of the Central Committee, but not the National Assembly, and has no public profile.

Raúl Castro’s other two children have no public roles or positions.

Myth 8: Trump won Florida because Cuban Americans supported his hard line on Cuba.

Cuban Americans do not support a hard line on Cuba. Polls show a clear majority in support of engagement. Florida International University’s 2016 poll found 69% in support of the restoration of diplomatic relations and the 63% opposed to continuing the economic embargo. Even larger majorities favored travel and trade.

Cuban Americans did not vote overwhelmingly for Trump. Hillary Clinton won South Florida by 100,000 more votes than Barack Obama did in 2012. Trump won 52-54% of the Cuban American vote, only a few percentage points better than Mitt Romney and far below the 2-1 margins Republicans used to wrack up before 2012. By contrast, in the predominately white rural counties along the I-4 corridor and in the panhandle, Trump crushed Clinton by huge margins. Trump won Florida for the same reason he won Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin—high turnout among white blue collar voters.

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LA RECESIÓN CUBANA Y EL ESTRENO DE LOS BONOS PÚBLICOS

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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“CUBA 2017: SLOW MOTION ECONOMIC REFORMS PLUS POLITICAL STASIS”

Attached here is a Power Point Presentation on Cuba’s current economic and political situation.  The complete presentation is attached here:  Cuba 2017: Slow Motion Reforms. January 4, 2017

By Arch Ritter

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CUBA’S FIRST EXPORT TO THE UNITED STATES SINCE 1961: ARTISANAL CHARCOAL

Artisanal charcoal will become the first legal Cuban export to the United States in decades under a deal announced Thursday between Cuba’s government and the former lawyer for imprisoned U.S. government contractor Alan Gross.

Attorney Scott Gilbert, who has sought to build economic ties between the two countries since Gross’ release, said a company that he founded will buy 40 tons of charcoal made from the invasive woody plant marabu. The charcoal is produced by hundreds of worker-owned cooperatives across Cuba and has become an increasingly profitable export, valued for its clean-burning properties and often used in pizza and bread ovens.

Gilbert’s company will pay $420 a ton, which is significantly above the wholesale market price of about $360. The first delivery is scheduled for Jan. 18, two days before the inauguration of Donald Trump as U.S. president.

Products of privately run or cooperative farms in Cuba can be exported to the United States under measures introduced by President Barack Obama after the Dec. 17, 2014, declaration of detente with Cuba. The measures loosen a 55-year-old trade embargo on Cuba.

The charcoal is sold by cooperatives to a local packager, which sells it on to state-run export firm CubaExport. Each middleman takes a 1 percent or 2 percent commission, CubaExport general director Isabel O’Reilly said. CubaExport said the charcoal would be the first legal export to the United States in more than five decades, and it hoped to expand the deal to include honey and coffee.

The charcoal will be sold to restaurants and online to consumers in 33-pound bags under the brand name Fogo, Gilbert said.

Cuba sells about 40,000 to 80,000 tons of marabu charcoal annually to buyers in Italy, Germany and about a half dozen other countries, O’Reilly said.

Attorney Scott Gilbert

“I think that once they have examined this situation and looked at all the facts, that they will be supportive of increased engagement and the economic changes that it will bring,” Gilbert said.

Under Obama’s changes, American visitors to Cuba can return with unlimited rum and cigars, but state-run companies cannot export those products to the U.S.

A man prepares artisanal charcoal at a farm on the outskirts of Havana, Cuba, on Jan. 5, 2017. Artisanal charcoal will become the first Cuban export to the U.S. this month under a new deal between the Cuban government and the former lawyer for imprisoned U.S. government contractor Alan Gross.

(Ramon Espinosa / AP)

Associated Press

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