By Circles Robinson
HAVANA TIMES – People abroad are wondering what changes are visible in Havana since the Castro and Obama governments decided last December to restart the relationship between the two countries. Here are a few of the changes our writers report.
– People in general are more hopeful, although a certain degree of skepticism is common on whether an improved tourism economy will reach ordinary workers and their families who are not in that industry.
– Tourism in the capital is up considerably boosted by a surge in ordinary US citizens and Cuban-Americans. One can witness more tourists in the streets. As a result, renting a car can be very difficult.
– Many Cubans are studying English and learning tourism related jobs. A small minority with startup capital are fixing up homes to use as rentals as well as open cafes or restaurants. They are awaiting an explosion of tourism and dollars.
– Salaried workers are hoping the increased economic activity will translate into livable wages. (Currently the average pay is only around US $20 a month, with many workers earning $15 or less.). Some are hopeful for new employment opportunities with US companies that might establish on the island.
– Cross border exchanges of a professional and/or artistic nature are becoming more frequent.
-Some people thought that by 6-months after the thaw in relations the stores would be full of products. That has clearly not happened.
-Chronic shortages of all types of basic consumer products, including food staples, continues and in some cases is even worse. The lack of proper wholesale outlets makes families have to compete with businesses for scarce products at expensive retail prices.
-Communities and cities off the tourist trail are not yet experiencing the increase in business activity.
To be continued…