The Cuban Economy Past, Present and Future by Collegium of Cuban Economists
The Cuban Economy Past, Present and Future
Author: Collegium of Cuban Economists
Title: The Cuban Economy Past, Present and Future
ISBN10: 0966818903
ISBN13: 978-0966818901
Format: .PDF .EPUB .FB2
Pages:
Publisher: Collegium of Cuban Economists (December 31, 1998)
Language: -
Size pdf: 1508 kb
Size epub: 1789 kb
Rating: 3.5 ✪
Votes: 248
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The Cuban Economy: Past, Present and Future. Collegiums of Cuban Economists, Miami, Florida, 1998. ISBN # 0-9668189-0-3. Reviewed by Raul Moncarz

In the fall of 1997, the Collegium of Cuban Economists assembled a group of eminent economists and other scholars at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, Florida. The primary goal of the meeting was to gain, through in-depth discussion and analysis, a more complete understanding of the Cuban economy, in order to be able to offer the most knowledgeable input possible into the rebuilding of the island's economy once Fidel Castro was no longer in power.

The publication under review is a compilation of papers presented at that meeting, which was the first of a series of annual meetings organized for the same purpose. The book provides an overview of the economic history of Cuba up to the Castro period, which began in 1959.

The period from 1902 to 1948, covered in Raul Shelton's paper, emphasizes the role of the entrepreneur and the importance of entrepreneurship as a whole to the healthy growth and development of any society. That period in Cuba saw a tremendous increase in income - in the vicinity of almost 9 percent per year, a growth that was even higher than that which characterized the take-off stage. In addition, there were sharp increases in many sectors of Cuba's agricultural production. For example, the production of sugar rose from 3,454,000 tons in 1945 to 5,590,000 in 1948; and the cattle industry expanded to the point where it reached a high ranking among the other Latin American countries. Shelton's ends his analysis by pointing to an important fact noted by all the other authors in this publication. That is, that in spite of the fact that it was facing an extremely difficult political situation, the island's economy still managed to show significant growth.

Jorge F. Freyre presents an analysis of the period from 1948-58. That was a decade of intense institutional change, a time during which Cuba attained an unquestionably high standard of living, once again, in spite of its political turmoil. An example of this can be seen in the number of television sets - the equivalent of 79 sets per 1,000 inhabitants - in use, which far surpassed that of the other Latin American countries. The number of radios in use was also significantly higher than that of the other Latin American countries, with the exception of Argentina and Uruguay; and the number of automobiles in use was the second highest in Latin America, just behind Venezuela.

Health care was another indicator of Cuba's economic leadership in Latin America at that time. First, along with Argentina and Uruguay, Cuba had by far the highest ratio of physicians per 1,000 inhabitants of the Latin American countries. In 1960, the mortality rate in Cuba was the lowest in Latin America; and it was even lower than that in Italy and Spain.

With regard to the expansion of production in areas other than sugar production, by 1959 Cuba had made definite progress toward curtailing its dependence on sugar. Between 1956-58, the production of goods other than sugar accounted for 75.7% of its net domestic income, as compared to 68.3% in 1948-50, an improvement of 7.4 percentage points. In the next article, Jose M. Illan brilliantly presents the systematic changes that took place in Cuba in1959 and 1960. He explains, from a theoretical base, the growth of socialism in Cuba, its rise to power in 1959, and its rapid conversion into Castro-Leninism. He shows how the island's economic decline and eventual impoverishment began with the implementation of various policies initiated in 1959 and states that it was the Cubans themselves who did not want to analyze or understand the actual nature of the new order being established.

A lucid overall evaluation of the economic results of Castroism in Cuba, analyzing the different data bases provided by the Cuban government and other international institutions, is then provided by Jorge Salazar Carrillo, who tries to make sense of the very disparate figures and figures provided by the Cuban regime and their different sources. Obviously the lack of transparency denotes severe difficulties in understanding and rationalizing the data.

In the last two essays of this excellent book, Alberto Martinez Piedra and Antonio Jorge present two views of the possible future evolution of the Cuban economy. Piedra's article emphasizes the ethical foundation of the economic freedoms that are expected to prevail on the island. It is important to realize that the central message of his article is a very basic one, which is that one must realize that economics cannot be relegated to a mere analysis of economic data and to the construction and application of simple growth models that do no more than play around with numbers, as these rarely have much significance when addressing Cuba's future.

Antonio Jorge's essay analyzes the political economy that should determine the economic policies required for the reconstruction of Cuba. Specifically, he emphasizes three policies that would need to be followed in the island's reconstruction. First, there is a need for policies of agricultural diversification and rational economic self-sufficiency. These policies need to be applied to primary activities, to the production of basic goods for general consumption, as well as to agribusiness and cattle ranching. Maximum priority should be given to activities that make up the dual program of reconstruction and de-collectivization. A second, but close, priority should be given to light industry for the production of consumer goods and to intermediate manufacturing in general. Finally, the objective of financial stability would be achieved most effectively by means of policies that tend to favor a positive trade balance, or at least one that maintains equilibrium and increases savi! ngs of hard foreign exchange, with the consequent accumulation of reserves in convertible currency.

In Dr. Jorge's opinion, the only way in which Cuba is going to be successful in reconstructing and developing its society and economy after the disaster of the last four decades is by recovering and creatively reinterpreting its historical cultural background, for that is where the essence and national character of the nation can be found. With its recovery, the people would be instilled with new life and a renewed sense of hope and faith in the future.

As a whole, this book can be viewed as an important component in an understanding of the Cuban economy. It could also serve as a guide for analysts who might be faced with the same situation as that in Cuba in the future. The articles in this book represent an effort of people who are both practitioners of economics and people who have lived the Cuban experience, both inside and outside of the island. As such, the book will appeal to a variety of audiences, including undergraduate or graduate students. Most of it is accessible to, and can be easily understood by, both non-economists and students of the Cuban political economy in general. It should prove to be a valuable reference tool and is highly recommended for all those who are concerned about the future of the Cuban economy.