Cuba Is on the Road to Development

Elio Delgado Legón

The Mariel port and Special Economic Zone west of the capital.

HAVANA TIMES — Despite the obstacles they have tried to place in our way, the prevailing economic situation around the world (which, needless to say, directly affects us), the sudden disappearance of trade relations with the former socialist bloc (which spelled a recession of over two decades and forced us to rebuild our foreign trade almost from scratch), the damage caused by natural phenomena (which have caused the country billions of dollars), we can confidently say, without fear of contradiction, that Cuba is making sure and steady progress towards its fundamental objective: development.

That said, we cannot neglect the fact that achieving development in a country without abundant natural resources, whose history, prior to the triumph of the revolution, had been characterized by the plunder of these scant resources and social neglect (first under the yoke of Spanish colonialism and then under neo-colonialism), is a gigantic task that requires many years of work.

We cannot lose from sight of the fact that development should not be measured on the basis of economic indicators alone, that it has many different aspects and that an essential one is social development, for, without social development, one cannot have economic development.

Workshop. Photo: Juan Suarez

If we look at some of the figures that described the social situation Cubans had before 1959, we can get a clear sense of the progress made since. Back then, unemployment was at 25 percent for a considerable part of the year; women constituted a mere 12 percent of the workforce; 45 percent of children aged 6 to 14 were denied schooling; 23 percent of the population was illiterate; the average level of schooling was under the third grade; more than 10 thousand teachers were unemployed; there was no public health system and the few medical services offered were poor quality.

The situation in rural areas was even more serious. There, 43 percent of the population was illiterate and only 8 percent managed to secure some form of free medical attention, always through connections with politicians who asked for votes in return.

Following the triumph of the revolution on January 1, 1959, human beings became the center of attention of the new government and social development became Cuba’s chief priority. All illiterate persons were taught to read and write and the classrooms needed to provide all children with an education were created. This was the logical first step needed to develop the country.

Whereas Cuba only had three universities before the revolution, today it has 68 higher education institutions. As a result of this, Cuba can boast of high levels of development in the field of science and can point to 200 research centers. In addition, the country produces quality medication and vaccines that can be found even in wealthy and developed countries.

Turism is one of Cuba’s main revenue earners. Photo: Juan Suarez

No one can question the fact Cuba is a force to be reckoned with in the field of medicine. The country exports medical services to more than 80 countries around the world and offers free aid to those in need, such as Haiti, to name one example.

Cuba’s infant mortality rate of 4.2 deaths for every one thousand live births, reported this past 2013, is the lowest on the continent, and life expectancy at birth, calculated at 80, is among the highest in the world.

The tourism industry has not ceased to grow since it began to be developed as a means of improving the country’s economy.

It would be impossible to list all of the industries that have been built over the last 55 years. If the country hasn’t managed to achieve greater development, this is because of all the limitations imposed on us by the US economic, commercial and financial blockade.

Cuba has a shipyard industry capable of constructing ever larger vessels, especially the freighters so dearly needed to transport goods in the Caribbean region.

The start of operations of the first stage of the Mariel Special Development Zone, equipped with a port for large-scale vessels, is an important step towards development.

In brief, having consolidated social and human development (something that has been recognized internationally), bolstered science and technology in the country, laid the foundations for a qualitative and quantitative leap forward in agriculture and taken decisive steps in all sectors, Cuba is making steady progress towards its overall development.

Elio Delgado Legon

Elio Delgado-Legon: I am a Cuban who has lived for 80 years, therefore I know full well how life was before the revolution, having experienced it directly and indirectly. As a result, it hurts me to read so many aspersions cast upon a government that fights tooth and nail to provide us a better life. If it hasn’t fully been able to do so, this is because of the many obstacles that have been put in its way.


15 thoughts on “Cuba Is on the Road to Development

  • April 13, 2014 at 10:15 pm
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    The Communist Party used better arguments to support the idea
    of a bright future for the Cuban economy and its achievable development targets.
    Bombarding Cubans with daily speeches and newspaper articles they inserted in
    the minds of all Cubans these ideas 50 years ago, 40 years ago, 30 years ago,
    20 years ago and 10 years ago and today the gap between developed countries and Cuba is much bigger than 50 years ago.

    10 million arrobas, Arnaldo Tamayo, Ubre Blanca, CAME, Spirulina,
    PPG, Pastoreo Boasant?, 269 ways to prepare the soon abundant banana
    fruits. At the top of everything la Planificacion Socialista !!!

    That generation of Cubans, including those who sold the idea
    and those who believed in it will see complete nonsense in this article (and
    the bad intentions of the party)

  • March 23, 2014 at 9:01 am
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    IN CUBA THE free expression is a constitutional right:

    Cuban constitution approved on 2002 by 98.2% of cuban citizens :

    ARTICLE 53. – Citizens have freedom of speech and press in accordance with the objectives of socialist society. The material conditions for its exercise are given by the fact that the press, radio, television , film and other mass media are state or social property and can not be , in any case , private property , ensuring its use for the exclusive of the working people and the interest of society. The law regulates the exercise of these freedoms.

    ARTICLE 54. – The rights of meeting, demonstration and association are exercised by workers, manual and intellectual , peasants , women , students and other working people, which have the necessary means to that end . The social and mass organizations have all the facilities to carry out those activities in which the members have complete freedom of speech and opinion , based on the unlimited right of initiative and criticism .

    In some aspect you are right: according CUBAN constitution the SLACKERS DOES NOT HAVE RIGHT TO FREE EXPRESSION.

  • March 23, 2014 at 7:53 am
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    Some one of you are vaccinated against hepatitis B and C or against meningitis. Notice both vaccines was discovered in CUBA. Do you know CUBA has a high human development index. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_Human_Development_Index
    The lowest infant mortality of all AMERICA *(USA included) only 4.76 per thousand *(UNICEF data). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_infant_mortality_rate. What are your information source? Same as Moses Patterson? Oh, you read it on “world news”. Please when talk about my country write CUBA with capital letters and please inform yourself a littler better!!!

  • March 17, 2014 at 2:16 pm
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    after visiting cuba for my first time i’m hooked. what a great people and place. if the rest of the world continues to move backwards at it present pace you’ll be the envy of the world in a few short years. we recently had a texas judge sentence a misplaced youth to 99 years for abusing her child. god help us.

  • March 17, 2014 at 1:55 pm
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    moses, kyrgyzstan’s a great example. how ever did you come up with that. i should have said usa’s leaders. perhaps you would have agreed then and suggested norway as an example of how well left leaning crazies can do. it’s always best to view the whole picture when drawing conclusions if you want to be correct.

  • March 16, 2014 at 9:37 pm
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    Hey, that’s an easy question. Just take a look at the countries in eastern Europe that were once a part of the Soviet bloc that were not under a US embargo. For example, Kyrgyzstan. Like Cuba, once completely dependent on Soviet subsidies, this country has struggled to transition to free markets and democracy. Unlike Cuba, Kyrgyzstan has natural resources and solid agricultural production. While it may give you the warm and fuzzies to wonder about the ‘what ifs’, the truth is that socialism eats its own. The 30 years of Soviet dependency would have likely left Cuba just as broke and impotent with or without the embargo.

  • March 16, 2014 at 6:26 pm
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    thinking you are not looking at the whole picture. i wonder how cuba would have prospered if the west’s leaders were not so terrified of equality.

  • March 16, 2014 at 7:35 am
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    Your anti-US rhetoric does not equate to convincing pro-Castro propaganda. Cuba is producing less and not more. Cuba is importing more food and growing less. More buildings are falling down than are being constructed. More Cubans are leaving the country each year and the population is decreasing. Is this what you are referring to as “heading in the right direction”? By the way, Cubans “recycle” because they have to. It is not a choice.

  • March 15, 2014 at 7:14 pm
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    Apparently millions of Cubans disagree with you. And the thousands upon thousands who risk their lives on rickety rafts escaping your paradise speak much more elegantly than anything you and I could say

  • March 15, 2014 at 3:35 pm
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    Oh what a patronising ex pat you are ‘informed consent’. What an abuse of the word ‘migrate’. The ship isn’t sinking but rats still desert.
    Hardly worthy of the title ‘Cuban’, more a nomad of places like Dade County wallowing in the pseudo decadence with the Global thugs.
    Try removing your rose tinted spectacles once in a while and view the world through non materialistic eyes.

  • March 15, 2014 at 2:33 pm
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    By all measures Cuba was a highly advanced society in 1959 and according to United Nations statistics measured up to many European countries.

    Cuba my dear Terence recycles everything only because there is little choice. As the revolution squandered the resources and capital of an affluent pre-1959 Cuba, the country went to pot. Unable to maintain or build anything of substance the country has slowly been disintegrating, with buildings collapsing daily in Havana and all throughout Cuba.

    I am Cuban and I migrated with my family when I was young so I’ve seen the reality firsthand. So no need for propaganda. What I find “interesting and disturbing” is the armchair Bolshevik living a comfortable life in the US while cheering on the disaster that is Cuba

  • March 15, 2014 at 11:03 am
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    Whilst Cuba still has a long way to go, it is heading in the right direction. Oh I am sure the Country to move into the ‘fast track’ lane by joining the Capitalists with their snouts in the trough but fortunately and gladly it is more dignified than that.
    Whilst the so called Western society wallow in their throw away world where anything and everything is taken for granted, Cubans mentality is just the opposite. Virtually everything is recyclable one way or another.
    It is a developing Country which in my lifetime has shifted from the repulsiveness of Batista’s regime and everything that entailed to an educated Country which has proved to be increasingly resourceful despite the embargos and sanctions imposed on it by the Yankee Imperial warmongers.
    I find it interesting and disturbing that some comments have a particularly unpleasant odour of American propaganda, (which I believe the whole World has come to expect from the paranoid, hebephrenic and brainwashed Yanks.)
    Development may be in the slow lane within Cuba but there is strong evidence of progress which must be applauded.

  • March 15, 2014 at 8:17 am
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    It is hard to reconcile that Elio is talking about the same Cuba where buildings fall down killing people every time it rains hard. Is this the same Cuba that is facing a table salt shortage in Havana even now? Really? Salt? The manipulations of self-reported data from Cuba makes suspect infant mortality rates and literacy gains. To a tribesman in the bush in Mozambique, a Cuban doctor is a godsend. But Elio stretches the truth at best when he says Cuban medicine is “respected” around the world. A Cuban doctor is barely qualified to be a paramedic in the US. Elio does a yeoman’s job in spinning the few gains achieved by the Castros into a yarn of positive and optimistic comments. Still, how does this article square with the undeniable realities that Cubans face on a daily basis? If Cubans really lived in the Cuba that Elio writes about would they risk their lives in inner tubes or on surfboards to cross the Florida Straits to Miami?

  • March 15, 2014 at 3:42 am
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    Cuba is still locked in the starting blocks of the road to recovery and development.

    Currently Cuba’s only true export products are tobacco and nickel. Both traditional products. Nothing new there and resources that are at the limit of how far they can be exploited.

    The author says: “It would be impossible to list all of the industries that have been built over the last 55 years.”. I beg to disagree. It is in fact a very short: biotech.

    What would be a long list is that of those industries the dogmatic mismanagement of the Castro regime has destroyed: agriculture (sugar, rice, cattle, ….), textiles, chemical industry, construction, mechanical engineering, entertainment (cinemas), …

    The one shipyard referred to was built with Dutch money and is run with Dutch engineering.

    Cuba is even losing its one competitive advantage: education by discouraging people to study by imposing them lifelong servitude and low wages on the one hand and the lowering of standards (Cuba’s medical curriculum has only 70% of courses required in most other countries) both with the aim to “increase output” (of cash cows like doctors) and a crumbling outdated infrastructure that ensures these graduates are of little use (Namibia literally said Cuban trained engineers were useless and in lots of countries Cuban trained doctors fail the required qualification tests).

    The new Mariel port is a “white elephant” the future success of which depends on better relations with the USA.

    As long as the old dinosaurs are alive – especially Fidel – Cuba will remain “frozen in time”. The erratic behavior of the past still scares new investors. Men Fidel favored and praised in the past are now robbed of their assets and accused of corruption. International judgments on compensation for assets seized are not accepted by Cuba.

    If the military oligarchy and Raul are in power when Fidel dies – as one can presume – investors will face a money grabbing corrupt elite that want to get as large a part of assets and wealth as possible. Foreign investors have seen how devastating it can be to be faced with a coalition of state and oligarchs in Russia.

    The road to development will start when the current state capitalist system is dismantled and a real free economy – not an oligopoly – is created.

    Foreign investment in larger companies with ownership by a national investment fund – not oligarchs that got them cheap – and the use of funds generated to provide capital for the new middle class to create small and middle size companies is the way forward. Only with such a recipe Cuba will get out of the starting blocks to and on the road to development.

  • March 14, 2014 at 4:16 pm
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    without freeing the private sector cuba will have to continue its reliance on gifts of venezuelan oil to survive. if cuba is doing so well why does it deprive its citizens the right to free expression and access to world news. freeing the private sector can bring large benefits as it has in china.

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