By Daisy Valera
Currently, in Cuban stores that accept hard currency, you can find ample quantities of nationally produced goods; products from tomato puree and perfumes, to shampoo, soap and Kool-Aid – that are made here on the island.
In these stores you also find imported products. But what jumps out is that much of the imported merchandise is cheaper than their equivalent Cuba brands!
Take for example a two-liter bottle of Coca-Cola. In some stores this sells for $1.55 CUC, though a liter and a half bottle of TuCola (its Cuban knock-off) goes for $1.45 CUC.
Baguio natural fruit juices imported from Argentina also sell for less than locally-made juices.
What happens with soap is also an interesting issue. One can more often find a two-bar packet that costs $1.30 CUC than the less expensive brand that most people use, which sells for $0.35 CUC each. (1 CUC = US $0.80)
Isn’t it easier and more important to produce the cheaper, more popular brand?
Whenever I walk by these stores’ front counters, where candy is sold, I can’t keep myself from asking the same question: How much does it cost the Cuban government to buy candy abroad if this is a commodity that is bought wholesale?
I don’t have the answer to this question, but I do know that the cheapest candy sold in Cuba goes for the same price as it does in the countries from which it is imported; only that in those countries the wages are many times higher than ours.
The same situation exists when we look at the price of clothing and shoes.
In short, these stores are becoming a challenge to my imagination. I still don’t find it logical to produce goods that are sold at higher prices than those that are imported, or that we first produce more expensive items and then the necessary ones.
To me, the logical approach would be to buy wholesale in order to reduce the purchasing cost, thereby allowing a lower sales price for the consumer.
But it seems that things don’t work this way, and I truly do not know how the economy of my country functions, but nor do a slew of others who ask these very same questions.
As a future worker I would like to have access to this information. My understanding is that “socialist” Cuba is advancing toward a planned economy where the workers are the ones who are supposed to have constant control, given what their work represents to the country, and that these investments are the fruit of their labor.