CIPR | Center For Inter-American Policy & Research

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Paolo Spadoni on Cuba's Socialist Economy Today

On March 28, 2014, Paolo Spadoni, former post-doctoral fellow at CIPR (2008-09) and current assistant professor of political science at Georgia Regent University, discussed his upcoming book Cuba‘€™s Socialist Economy Today: Navigating Challenges and Change, to be published by Lynne Rienner in May 2014.

Spadoni‘€™s new book analyzes the Cuban economy in depth with an emphasis on the macroeconomic environment but also by sector, exploring the new reforms implemented by Raul Castro since he took over from Fidel in 2008.

The most important economic problems facing Cuba are large fiscal and merchandise deficits, growing foreign debt, sagging productivity and efficiency, stagnant real wages and pensions, and the dual monetary system. Cuba‘€™s economic driver has been the service sector, with rising exports of professional services and an increase in tourism revenues. Yet productivity in all major sectors remains low and the country continues to be heavily dependent on food and oil imports.

Spadoni estimates that approximately 80% of consumer goods are imported, most importantly food and oil. With deeper agricultural reforms, including land redistribution and cultivation, Cuba could successfully increase domestic production for many of these goods and lessen its import dependence.

The labor market is also experiencing changes as government jobs are insufficient to keep the population fully employed. Raul Castro‘€™s desire to layoff 1.2 million state employees to increase efficiency and decrease corruption has remained short of the mark as job creation is lagging. A more successful job creation program could allow Cuba to avoid the flight of highly skilled professionals to service sectors in which they can earn hard currency but where their technical knowledge is underutilized.

Spadoni noted that salaries and pensions are currently one quarter and one half, respectively, of what they were in 1989. This has forced Cubans to turn to remittances from abroad, tips from tourism and hospitality, and black market activities to satisfy their needs. He noted that it would be impossible for the state to decrease the rationing system or change the current dual monetary system until state enterprises produce more, raising the real wages to a point where Cubans can subsist on their salaries.

Spadoni commended Raul Castro‘€™s stance on corruption and the embargo. Castro has acknowledged that corruption has created many of the problems Cuba is currently facing, and he is encouraging Cubans to stop blaming the embargo for the country`s failures. Instead, he has started looking for internal solutions. His reforms are well conceived, but they do not go deep enough. Priority should be on job creation and productivity increases, as well as full realization of property rights for cooperatives and new entrepreneurial initiatives.

Paolo Spadoni is also the author of Failed Sanctions: Why the U.S. Embargo against Cuba Could Never Work (University Press of Florida, 2010).

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CIPR Fall Speaker Series

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Please join us Mondays at noon for our Fall speaker Series
Markets, the State, and Democracy in Latin America
October 14, October 21, November 11, and November 18.

In the 2019 fall series, Markets, the State, and Democracy in Latin America, speakers will discuss emerging issues that have surfaced as the result of the opportunities and challenges to democratic governance that markets have brought to the region. Latin America experienced a major influx of investment, particularly in the resource sector, over the past several decades. While this foreign investment helped hasten economic development, it also brought a backlash of resource nationalism and increased calls for redistribution. Moreover, Latin America is now a model in its own right, with other countries in the Global South adopting its state-sponsored development strategies in the resource sector. These presentations will also explore how Latin America is navigating a sea change in geopolitics, with China emerging as a challenger to the United States as the region’s main trade partner and ally.

For more information, check out our Fall Series Poster

Latin American Writers Series: Alberto Barrera Tyszka

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Ecuadorian writer and Tulane Visiting Scholar Gabriela Alemán interviews Venezuelan writer Alberto Barrera Tyszka about his life, interests, and influences. Their discussion will be followed by an open Q&A and an informal reception. This event will be held in Spanish.

About the Latin American Writers Series

This series brings together Latin America’s most representative creative voices and the editorial entrepreneurs that publish them. By way of interviews conducted by renowned Ecuadorian writer Gabriela Alemán and presentations of various editorial missions, the guests will shed light on a literary world shaped by the contemporary issues of the continent. Moving forward, their conversations will comprise the centerpiece of a digital archive that introduces their ideas to a global audience.

Este serie reúne a los autores más representativos de la escritura continental y los editores que los publican. A través de entrevistas con la reconocida escritora ecuatoriana Gabriela Alemán y presentaciones de proyectos editoriales, los invitados explorarán los vínculos entre el mundo literario y la realidad continental. Sus conversaciones se convertirán después en el eje de un archivo digital que busca llevar estas ideas a un público global.

About the Author

Born in Caracas, Alberto Barrera Tyszka has published over a dozen works of poetry, short story, chronicle, novel, and biography. His most recent publications include the novels Patria o Muerte (2015) and Rating (2011), the poetic anthology La inquietud (2013), the collection of chronicles Un país a la semana (2013), and the short story collection Crímenes (2009). In 2005, he collaborated with Cristina Marcano to write the definitive biography of Hugo Chávez, Hugo Chávez sin uniforme: una historia personal (2005). Patria o muerte won the 2015 Premio Tusquets de Novela, and his novel La enfermedad, translated into English as The Sickness (2010), received the 2006 Herralde Award. Barrera also writes for television and has scripted soap operas for Venezuelan, Mexican, Colombian, and Argentinian networks.