Cuba’s Last Stumbling Blocks and the New Pie in the Sky

Rogelio M. Diaz Moreno

Cafe MargotHAVANA TIMES — The owner of a fantasy milk churn imagines an entire fortune ahead of him, heading to the market. Sadly, reality places a pot-hole in his way and the jug that should have brought him such wonders spills.

Cuba periodically offers us a new version of this well-known fable. Between the close of last year and the current one, we have seen yet another version of this folkloric tale. If it wasn’t given more press, it may have been because of the concerns surrounding prices and inflation or the drama of Cuban migrants, or the Pope’s visit, or any other distraction opportunistically taken advantage of.

Despite its apparent insignificance, the matter has probably caused much concern among Cuban bigwigs and their teams of economists. It turns out that the last, great projects conceived to consolidate and develop the country’s economy have not been as successful as they hoped.

As you’ll recall, the last great bet of Cuba’s reform process was laid on the effects of foreign investment. The same apparatus that had raged against the evils of foreign capital, penetrating and taking hold of the poor Third World, now longs to see these arrive. Because of this, the Mariel bay and port became a Special Economic Development Zone. In addition, Cuba promulgated a juicier Foreign Investment Law, which the government dared design.

According to the reformists, the Cuban economy needs billions in investments every year in order to grow. The blessed law aimed to draw international companies with the resources that the local government obviously lacks, or so its promoters claim. In fact, many visits by delegations of potential investors have been going on for months, and many additional meetings with interested countries have been held. However, something has not yet clicked.

Por el mercado
By the market. Photo: Juan Suarez

After more than a year, Cuba’s expectations are far from being fulfilled. Some new businesses have been set up, but the figures are well below those aimed at. A small number of companies have decided to make additional shipments to Mariel and other Cuban localities. If the entire media campaign had been designed to convince us this was the best possible way forward towards prosperity, serious concerns may be emerging now.

It isn’t hard to prompt triumphalism regarding measures aimed at drawing in “good” capitalists early in the game. The owner of the milk churn could not have mustered more optimism. As time passes, however, the mood has become a bit more serious. Isidoro Malmierca, Ricardo Cabrisas, Cuban officials in this businesses of dealing with finances and foreigners, explain what’s going on to journalists during the parliamentary sessions. They claim we need a lot of patience, that this is a complex process, that it will yield fruit, but slowly.

The word out on the street is that the bureaucracy and unwieldiness of the system make quicker progress in this direction impossible. That may not be the only – or most important – cause for lament.

The most maddening thing may be that, to play this hand, other options that people have called for with true will and initiative (not seeking to exploit others) were frozen. The charm of these promises may have had a say in the fact that, in 2015, the process of authorizing new cooperatives was paralyzed, and the fact the country’s leadership continues to look down on the need and right of workers to manage their activities in a democratic and horizontal manner.

Carlos III Ave. Photo: Juan Suarez
Carlos III Ave. Photo: Juan Suarez

Whatever the case may be, the attempt to set up a dairy with a foreign jug has failed. The delegations from “abroad” are fewer and fewer and offering no more revenues, not even following the positive results of the renegotiation of our debt. The Cuban government will now be forced to face up to decisive moments in its reform process.

This year may again bring us new developments in terms of the country’s economic and social transformations. After all, the 7th Communist Party Congress is to be held this year. This Congress promises to discuss the hitherto highly secretive “Conceptualization of Cuba’s economic and social model.” The no less secretive commissions that are cooking up constitutional reforms will eventually bring their Machiavellian proposals to light. The reticence of foreign investors could be the decisive argument wielded by the many admirers of the Chinese model, and they may realize their aim of opening the doors to domestic capitalists.

The last pie in the sky to be offered seems to be as high in the atmosphere as the last and the one before that. It remains to be seen – and suffered – what terrible things will ensue down the way.

16 thoughts on “Cuba’s Last Stumbling Blocks and the New Pie in the Sky

  • The Cuban people have already won…

    The White Cubans have not betrayed the Brown Cubans and the Brown Cubans have not set themselves up as being superior to the Black Cubans and none of the Cubans in Cuba, have sold out. Even Cuban criminals would not knowingly do anything designed to hurt Cuba.

    The Cuban people have already won and economic prosperity is already coming and will be the result of people who understand and respect the wishes of the Cuban people investing in the Cuba people.

    There is no difference between the Cuban people and the Cuban government and anyone who has ever been to Cuban could figure out in about 24 hours that if the Cuban people wanted a change of government, they would have made that happen a long time ago. Cubans care about each other and we could all learn from that.

    Pay no attention to the “Invasion of the body snatchers” Batista Pod People in Miami or the exploiters in any country who troll the Earth looking for people to exploit, They are just unhappy because the real Cuban people never sold-out and now things are moving in the right direction.

    Some changes will happen relatively fast and some things will take longer, but overall progress for the Cuban people will happen at the right pace and in the right way.

  • China went thru the same thing and became victorius inspite of the setbacks and slow progress and they have a lot more people to feed thats for sure. Cuba can and has shown the Americas a good and righteous path and China can learn from Cubas differences and other counties built on revolution ending in the love and spirit of God and that is the thing Cubans can bring .
    Thank You

  • The Castros impose an estimated 95% income tax. Cubans pay a lot more than “nothing” for healthcare and education.

  • 240% in taxes, wow, this is the end, but they are paying “nothing” for health care, education and other services, on special the 5,000 % increase in the price Drug Goes From $13.50 a Tablet to $750, Overnight for the AIDS, that happened in Cuba, I do not think that happen in Cuba, but welcome to the 240% the only tax Cubans are paying, welcome.

  • I have family in Cuba. The embargo impacts their everyday lives in a mostly indirect and inconsequential way. Castro tyranny on the other hand, is in their face and tangible. Here’s an example: The embargo prevents Cuba from using US dollars in purchasing imports. As a result, my in-laws have to pay a little more when they want to purchase anything imported. On the other hand, the Castros have imposed a 240% tax on the cost of these imported products. This tax raises the price of imported goods far more than the additional cost of being forced to use euros, yuan, rubles or whatever other foreign currency acceptable to the seller.

  • Jesús, your statistics are more or less correct. But, to be poor in the US is not to be without hope….and a widescreen TV. Poor in Cuba is a horse of a different color.

  • ….if it’s so bad what are you doing here Jesus?

  • If what you are trying to say is that you need to work hard in the US in order to be able to “make it”….then yes that is true. Certainly that type of hard work is something most Cuban’s have forgotten how to do. They have a terrible reputation around the world as “layabouts”, which your comment just reinforces.

  • hope you have a notion of what is an embargo imposed by the US government and its consequences in 55 years, or you think it has not worked this embargo in terms of poverty for an entire people, focus, we are not the only nation that moves in search of economic improvements, but one thing I am clear that the US is not a Panasea hell, here you will have to have more than one job, which Cuba has not ever had to do, and that’s his mistake

  • I am an American citizen, and I have in my country to more than 45 million people living below the extreme poverty, you tell me this, and later this month more than 1 million of them are left without food stamps, but at the end of December 2015 and accumulated 97 million who are near the poverty that you’re talking about, is more than half of the American population, of which you speak, you live in Africa or in this hemisphere

  • Cubans are so thrilled with the successes of their ‘victory’ over the US, that they are leaving Cuba in record numbers. Is that about right? Hahaha!

  • Si Jesus. Cuba fail! Can you show me where your communist experiment has ever worked? Or do you consider ration cards a “success”?

  • Rogelio M. Diaz Moreno, estas fracasando tu historia de histeria en contra de Cuba, basura ideologica

  • this idiots cancel my comments, and they are writing from Havana, and Fidel is bad, bullshit

  • That is bullshit, Cuba fail?, Communist Experiments Fail? that is bullshit, Cuba under the most terrible and criminal Economic, Financial, Diplomatic, Political and Cultural Embargo from USA and others, please, they are still there, growing and growing every single day with a very strong opportunities that none one know how strong buy is Cuba now; few years ago, the open cell phone market in Cuba brought up a bunch of economic consideration about the number, someone said 16,000, other said no more than 34,000 cell phone, bullshit first semestre 450,000 cell phone sold, and now 3 to 5 millions, idiots, Cuba has more than your own eye can pick,….bullshit, 90 miles from USA and Fidel and his peoples still a head against the most powerful country in the human history, Cuba won, we loss, we are a bunch of looser.

  • Opportunity to invest exists all over the world. Cuba does not yet have a regulatory structure in place to create confidence. What is unlikely to happen is free money for Cuba to waste in more failed communist social experiments. A fair rate of return is another concept Cuba will need to get comfortable with before big money shows up. A little aid and fools money can be lured with hope, but big money will wait.

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