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Growth returns to Caribbean Basin, but recovery is uneven
BY JACQUELINE CHARLES AND MIMI WHITEFIELD
jcharles@miamiherald.com

Economic performance in the Caribbean will be uneven this year: Some
economies will grow by 5 percent or more, but others will be lucky to
eke out even negligible economic growth.

"The Dominican Republic and Guyana are expected to remain the strongest
performers in the subregion," according to the U.N.'s Economic
Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean. "The outlook is less
favorable in the Bahamas, Cuba and Trinidad and Tobago — countries with
deep-rooted structural impediments and high vulnerability to external
developments."

The Dominican Republic is projected to have 5.1 percent growth, while
Guyana is expected to check in at 5 percent and St. Kitts and Nevis at
5.3 percent. On the other end of the spectrum are Trinidad and Tobago
(.5 percent growth), the Bahamas (1 percent), Suriname (1.4 percent),
and Cuba (1.5 percent).

Low global oil prices have dampened economic growth in oil-rich Trinidad
and Tobago. "Hopefully Trinidad will have bottomed out from last year,"
said Trevor Alleyne, Caribbean division chief at the International
Monetary Fund. "For the region as a whole, Trinidad won't be pulling
down the region's average as it was last year."

While some Caribbean economies have little more than tourism to sustain
themselves, even those with other resources can find themselves hurting.

"It goes back to undisciplined fiscal policies," Alleyne said. "When
things were great, when oil was $100 per barrel and gold was high, they
decided, 'OK it's time to party.' When these prices plummeted, they
found themselves without any buffers to manage that process."

Institutional problems and political uncertainty have buffeted a Haitian
economy already hit hard by natural disasters. Flooding from last year's
Hurricane Matthew and a prolonged drought have weighed heavily on
growth, and the country is still feeling the after-effects of a
devastating Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake.

"Economic activity in Haiti and Jamaica was adversely affected by
drought conditions as well as structural obstacles, including
institutional weaknesses, tight fiscal budgets and high unemployment and
underemployment," ECLAC said in its annual forecasting report.

Although ECLAC estimates 2.1 percent economic growth for Haiti, the
World Bank is predicting the economy will decline by -0.6 as Haiti
continues to wrestle with double-digit inflation, a hunger crisis in the
region slammed by Matthew, a depreciating domestic currency and low
investment levels.

The Haïti Priorise project, which brings together a group of economists,
is looking at ways to not only perk up economic growth but provide
improved services to the Haitian population. It is run by the Copenhagen
Consensus Center, a think tank that has receive Canadian government funding.

Among the suggestions to boost economic growth are faster Internet
service and more digitization. Pantelis Koutroumpis, a research fellow
at Imperial College Business School in London, noted that it takes 312
days to start a business in Haiti and 97 days to register a property.
Both processes, he said, can be reduced significantly if the
infrastructure that powers the country's Internet is improved to allow
for digitized registrations.

The Cuban government is more optimistic about the island's prospects
than ECLAC is. It is predicting economic growth of around 2 percent with
an increase in tourism leading the way. But other economists aren't as
sanguine. Pavel Vidal, a professor at Javeriana University in Colombia,
is forecasting a decline of between .3 percent and 1.4 percent in the
Cuban economy.

Cuban tourism officials are predicting the number of international
visitors will increase to a record 4.2 million. The officials say
tourism arrivals for January and February were up 15 percent over the
first two months of 2016.

But as economic problems in Venezuela deepen, the future of crucial oil
supplies from Cuba's main benefactor are in question. The government
recently announced that premium gasoline wouldn't be available on the
island in April, and long lines at gas stations are becoming more frequent.

To achieve sustainable growth, analysts say Cuba needs to undertake
economic reforms such as unifying its unwieldy dual currency system and
creating a more attractive environment for foreign investors, including
allowing them to directly hire their Cuba workers, cutting through red
tape, making it easier to sign contracts, and offering better legal
guarantees.

Cuba has said it wants foreign investment to be a cornerstone of its
future economic development.

Meanwhile, high debt burdens, large government deficits and a lack of
competitiveness remain at the center of the economic challenges facing
the Caribbean, said Justin Ram, director of economics for the Caribbean
Development Bank.

The bank is projecting economic growth for the Caribbean region at 1.7
percent this year. But Ram said the Caribbean as a whole will continue
to lag other regions unless it addresses high levels of crime and
violence in some countries, unemployment and poverty and reduces its
high debt levels.

"We're not seeing the level of investments we need to boost growth," he
said. "Our economies have not kept pace with the kind of competitiveness
we are seeing in other parts of the world. We are lagging behind... with
respect to the types of economic reforms they are pushing through to
keep their economies competitive."

Caribbean nations also need to improve their "doing business"
environment, he said. "Investors look for these things," Ram said.

In the Dominican Republic, last year's brisk growth (6.8 percent) is
expected to ease somewhat as major construction projects are completed
and government expenditures drop. Tax evasion and a large informal
economy remain persistent challenges in the Caribbean's largest tourism
destination, according to the World Bank.

There are also questions about the future of the Dominican
Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement, which also includes Costa
Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, now that it appears
NAFTA will be reopened.

"There is concern about what happens with DR-CAFTA if it becomes part of
the bulls eye in the Trump equation," said Jason Marczak, director of
the Latin America Economic Growth Initiative at the Atlantic Center's
Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center.

Among the smaller Caribbean economies that have introduced reforms and,
as a result, are seeing economic growth is Grenada. Its rules-based
fiscal policy drives the budget process rather than the other way
around, and it also requires officials to report their assets.

Last year's growth rate was even higher than the 2.6 percent the
government had anticipated, said Prime Minister Keith Mitchell during a
recent visit to Miami to participate in a Caribbean growth conference
organized by the Miami Herald and World Bank.

"With what we are seeing on the levels of construction and business
activities in the country, and the further growth in the agriculture
sector and tourism... we believe we will, in fact, top" last year's
growth, Mitchell said.

Increased exports, more tourism arrivals and fiscal reforms in the
country known as the Spice Island have allowed Grenada to reduce its
unemployment levels from 40 percent to 28 percent in the last few years.
While that's still high, the reduction makes it clear "that things are
happening in the country," Mitchell said.

Another Caribbean country that may be turning the corner is Jamaica. It
has increased tax revenues and international reserves after years of
struggling with high debt and low growth. This year, the recovery is
expected to continue with "slow, incremental growth," Alleyne said.
Growth projections range from 1.7 percent to over 2 percent, thanks to
low oil prices and an improving Jamaican investment climate.

Follow Jacqueline Charles on Twitter: @jacquiecharles

Follow Mimi Whitefield on Twitter: @heraldmimi

Source: Uneven economic recovery expected across the Caribbean in 2017 |
Miami Herald -
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/article146326224.html Continue reading
Is Raul Castro in Hibernation Mode? / Iván García

Ivan Garcia, 11 April 2017 — Right now the most closely guarded secret
in Cuba is the protocols for succession of the nation's president, army
general Raul Castro, after his retirement in February 2018.

I will tell you what is rumored among some officials close to the
tight-lipped team of advisers and influential relatives in the Council
of State.

A well-informed source claims, "The man is desperate to retire. He wants
to spend more time with his children and grandchildren and travel around
the world. He's really going to retire. And it seems to me that he will
probably pass his job on to the first party secretary. He has always
preferred to be in the background."

A technocrat with connections to powerful elites states, "The succession
is not happening at the best time but Raul is serious when he says he is
leaving. I have it on good authority that Miguel Diaz-Canel and his wife
Lis Cuesta, around whom the media has been creating a presidential image
in recent months, are studying English in depth and preparing to lead
the country."

A former personal security officials says, "Resources have been put at
Diaz-Canel's disposal, the kind of communication technology and
logistical support that a president would have."

Meanwhile, as the official media has been inundating us with reports of
economic successes and the alleged loyalty of the population to Raul
Castro and his deceased brother, the countdown to the succession continues.

There is only a little more than ten months until D-Day. At midnight on
February 24 the republic will presumably be governed by a civilian
president without the last name Castro.

One of the sources consulted for this article believes that "after his
own retirement, Raul will force the retirement of several longtime
revolutionary officials such as Jose Ramon Machado Ventura and Ramiro
Valdes.* His son Alejandro, who is a colonel in the Ministry of the
Interior, will retain a certain degree of power while his daughter
Mariela will continue promoting an image of tolerance towards
homosexuality but will no longer hold any really significant positions.

"The power behind the throne will be the military. Everything has been
arranged. There will be major economic changes. If the purchasing power
of the population does not increase, consumer spending will be
encouraged while the monetary and intellectual capital of the exile
community will be tapped.

"If not, Cuba will never get out of the swamp. Political exhaustion and
systemic failures have created conditions conducive to the emergence of
an acute social crisis whose outcome no one can predict. That is why
there will be changes."

In Cuba, where the state press's greatest strengths are saying nothing
and masking daily reality, rumors within the halls of power carry more
credibility than the official news.

Raul Castro is a perpetual schemer. Let the analyst or journalist who
foresaw the secret negotiations with the United States and the
reestablishment of diplomatic relations on December 17, 2014 raise his hand.

Prognosticating in such a secretive country can be disastrous but there
have been some signals. During the the monotone National Assembly's 2015
legislative session a gradual rollback of Raul's reforms began. And
Marino Murillo, the czar of these reforms, disappeared from official photos.

In response to the Venezuelan crisis, which led to cuts of 40% in fuel
imports, the economic initiatives promoted by Raul Castro came to an
abrupt halt.

Barack Obama's visit to Cuba in March 2016 was the final straw. The
regime's most conservative factions began changing the rules of the game.

While lacking the charisma or stature of his brother, Castro II has
proved to be more effective at putting together negotiating teams and
has had greater successes in foreign policy. They include reestablishing
diplomatic relations with the United States without having to make many
concessions in return, acting as mediator in the meeting in Havana
between the Orthodox and Catholic churches, facilitating the peace
agreement in Colombia and securing the cancellation of a considerable
portion of the nation's financial debt.

His agricultural reforms have failed. People are still waiting for that
glass of milk he promised them in a speech given in Camaguey on July 26,
2007. On that day Raul Castro said, "We have to erase from our minds
this limit of seven years (the age at which Cuban children are no longer
entitled to receive a certain ration of milk). We are taking it from
seven to fifty. We have to produce enough so that everyone who wants it
can have a glass of milk."

The Foreign Investment Law has not been able to attract the roughly 2.5
billion dollars expected annually. The sugar harvest and food production
have not gotten off the ground, requiring the regime to import more than
two billion dollars worth of food every year.

Except for tourism, the profitable foreign medical assistance program
and other international missions, and remittances from overseas, all
other exports and economic initiatives have decreased or not shown
sufficient growth.

Vital industrial sectors are not profitable and its equipment is
obsolete. Problems in housing, transportation and public service
shortages are overwhelming. The price of home internet service is
outrageous. Official silence has surrounded recent restrictions on the
sale of gasoline** while public speculation about a return to the
"Special Period" has not been discussed by the executive branch.

Raul Castro barely appears in the public anymore. Aside from attending
Fidel's funeral in November 2016, presiding over parliament last
December and sporadic appearances at the Summits of the Caribbean and
the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, his presence is
almost imperceptible.

He is governing in hibernation mode, on automatic pilot. There is no
word on currency reform. The vaunted Economic Guidelines, only 21% of
which have been carried out, seem to be dead in the water.

According to a former journalist who now lives in Miami and who dealt
closely with Raul in the late 1980s, his seemingly erratic behavior
could be interpreted in several ways.

"Raul is not doctrinaire like his brother. Nor does he leave tasks half
done like Fidel used to do. I supposed he has his hands full preparing
Diaz-Canal so he can finish the job and implement good, effective
reforms. I think Diaz-Canal will play an important role in Cub's future.
Reporters should start lining up their canons now," says the former
journalist.

The sense on the street is that the island is going to hell. The outlook
does not look good. The future is a question mark. The pathways to
emigration are closing. And the average person's salary remains a bad joke.

The optimists, who are in the minority, are praying the general has an
emergency plan in his desk drawer. The pessimists, who are in the
majority, believe that life in Cuba will go on as it has, whether under
Raul, Diaz-Canal or any other members of the Communist praetorian guard.

*Translator's note: Vice-president of the Council of State and
governmental vice-president respectively.

** Though no public announcement has been made, as of April 1 sales of
so-called "special gasoline" have been restricted to tourists with
rental cars.

Source: Is Raul Castro in Hibernation Mode? / Iván García – Translating
Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/is-raul-castro-in-hibernation-mode-ivn-garca/ Continue reading
Ivan Garcia, 11 April 2017 — Right now the most closely guarded secret in Cuba is the protocols for succession of the nation’s president, army general Raul Castro, after his retirement in February 2018. I will tell you what is rumored among some officials close to the tight-lipped team of advisers and influential relatives in the … Continue reading "Is Raul Castro in Hibernation Mode? / Iván García" Continue reading
14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, 16 April 2017 — The term secretismo (secretiveness), to refer to the absence or delay of certain information of public interest in the Cuban official media, began to be used first among critics of the system, until it came to appear in the speeches of the highest officials of the government. The … Continue reading "The Secrets of Secretismo" Continue reading
Bolivia's Representative to the UN Sacha Llorenti United Nations, April 13 (RHC)-- Bolivia's representative to the United Nations says that the international community owes Haiti a debt and should do whatever it takes to guarantee the Caribbean … Continue reading
Former FARC Guerrillas to Train as Doctors and Journalists in Cuba /
Juan Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida, 17 March 2017 — From the very moment it gained power,
the Cuban regime has devoted precious resources to exporting its
ideology and cultivating followers. Overseas military conflicts as
distant as those in Africa in the late 1970s and the guerrilla wars in
Central America in the 1970s and 1980s relied on Cuban logistics and
personnel. And just as it expressed solidarity by sending professionals
from multiple disciplines to so-called Third World countries, so too has
it brought professionals to the island for training throughout the
years, generating a wellspring of sympathizers who feel a huge debt of
gratitude.

As part of this successful experiment, there is now a new Cuban
"solidarity" contribution to the peace process in Colombia. It was no
coincidence that the island's capital was the setting for the signing of
the peace accord.

The Castro regime has instructed its ambassador in Bogota to announce
that it is awarding up to one thousand scholarships to the demobilized
members of the FARC guerrilla group and the victims of its armed
conflict to study medicine in Cuba.

The communiqué notes that the 200 scholarships to be awarded annually
over a five-year period — 100 for FARC soldiers and 100 for its
executive council — will be Cuba's contribution to the implementation of
the peace accords reached in Havana and to a lasting peace in Columbia.
Students may access their scholarships beginning in the 2017-2018 school
year. The Cuban embassy will submit a document to the Columbian
government and the FARC outlining the details which, even at the last
minute, was still being finalized by Cuban authorities.

This "goodwill gesture" on Cuba's part — a followup to the final
resolution of the conflict — seems more about publicity than
plausibility. The war went on for so many years that any attempt to
avoid death and violence is noteworthy. Cuba wants not only to promote
itself as a champion of peace in the region but also to profit from the
naivety of some democratic voices who applaud any action that might help
end the long conflict. But above all — and this is very important — it
wants to influence the underdogs, the FARC, with aid and support in
order to achieve a fundamental objective: to mask their image as crude
terrorists by treating them as a legitimate political organization.

Let's not forget that a significant portion of the two billion dollars
that the FARC made from kidnapping and drug trafficking in its own
country is now safely stashed away. Having been well laundered, it is
used to buy sophisticated, modern equipment for humanitarian purposes at
CIMEQ and the Cira Garcia Clinic.* Or it has been invested as Cuba's
contribution to joint venture projects that the government has with
business consortiums and large hotel chains operating both inside and
outside the country.

Cuban ambassador José Luis Ponce publicly announced the program
alongside members of the CSIVI, the commission which oversees the
implementation and verification of the peace accord. He addressed his
remarks to FARC secretariat member Iván Márquez, who used his Twitter
account to stress that "this contribution by Cuba to the implementation
of the Havana Agreement and to the postwar period in Colombia is a pure
humanitarian gesture."

Curiously, Piedad Córdoba — a Columbian attorney, politician and leader
of the Citizen Power XXI Century movement — used her own Twitter account
minutes later to state, "In spite of being under embargo, Cuba not only
has the best medicine in the world, it is also among the most supportive."

Such Twitter coincidences are not exactly a fitting prelude to support
for the end of the conflict. Why don't any of the parties involved
mention that, in addition to the one-thousand scholarships to study
medicine, the Cuban government is offering as many as five-hundred
scholarships to study journalism on the island?

Cuba is well-known for the high-quality training it provides to its
health care professionals as well as for the benefits it receives from
its program of exporting doctors.

This lab coat diplomacy, which includes training foreigners on the
island to be physicians, currently generates more income than tourism,
family remittances, nickel or sugar.

Besides operating a well-oiled financial machine, the Cuban government's
main goal is to create an army of grateful people, spread across the
globe, who are influential in the social circles. They remain committed
and invisible, ever ready to take immediate action in support of
medicine and the Cuban revolution.

Let us take this to the exercise of journalism, taking into account the
fluidity, or freedom of information that exists today in the world,
where even some democratic governments are becoming more and more
controlling. A host of indoctrinated journalists is a weapon of
significant influence and an effective tool for spreading ideas and
ideologies.

*Translator's note: The hospital and clinic mentioned here were
established to treat foreigners and foreign dignitaries as well as
members of the Cuban government, the military and their families. Their
facilities, equipment and provisions are known for being of a much
higher quality than those for ordinary Cubans.

Source: Former FARC Guerrillas to Train as Doctors and Journalists in
Cuba / Juan Juan Almeida – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/former-farc-guerrillas-to-train-as-doctors-and-journalists-in-cuba-juan-juan-almeida/ Continue reading
Juan Juan Almeida, 17 March 2017 — From the very moment it gained power, the Cuban regime has devoted precious resources to exporting its ideology and cultivating followers. Overseas military conflicts as distant as those in Africa in the late 1970s and the guerrilla wars in Central America in the 1970s and 1980s relied on Cuban … Continue reading "Former FARC Guerrillas to Train as Doctors and Journalists in Cuba / Juan Juan Almeida" Continue reading
Lack of cash clouds Cuba's green energy outlook
By Sarah Marsh | CIRO REDONDO, CUBA

Cuba, battling a chronic energy deficit, has all the sunshine, wind and
sugar to fuel what should be a booming renewables sector - if only it
could find the money.

The country's first utility-scale renewable energy project, a biomass
plant in Ciro Redondo, is finally under construction thanks to an
injection of funds from China, a socialist ally and in recent years, the
communist-led island's merchant bank of last resort.

Turning Cuba's renewables potential into reality has become a state
priority over the past year since crisis-stricken ally Venezuela slashed
subsidized oil shipments to Cuba that were supposed to help power its
traditional plants.

Some foreign players in green energy, such as Spain's Gamesa and
Germany's Siemens, have shown early interest in the country. But the
overall paucity of foreign financing means that this project, being
carried out by Cuban-British joint venture Biopower, is still the
exception rather than the rule.

The financing puzzle is a crucial one to solve if cash-strapped Cuba is
to hit its target of renewables filling 24 percent of its energy needs
by 2030, up from 4 percent today, a strategy that would require billions
of dollars in investment.

The government announced last July it was rationing energy, raising
fears of a return to the crippling blackouts of the "Special Period"
after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The energy shortage comes at a
time when growing tourism and private business creation are generating
greater demand.

"The most challenging thing we have had to deal with in the last six
years of developing this project has been the financing," said Biopower
President Andrew Macdonald, while touring the site of the Ciro Redondo
plant.

The Scotsman, who has been doing business with Cuba for more than a
decade, said the U.S. blockade had "strangled" funding from Europe "and
other obvious sources", with banks afraid of sanctions.

His start-up Havana Energy joined forces with a subsidiary of domestic
sugar monopoly Azcuba to create Biopower in 2012, with a contract to
build five plants attached to sugar mills.

The plants are projected to use sugar cane byproduct bagasse and
fast-growing woody weed marabu as biofuels, costing around $800 million
to add some 300 MW to the grid.

Biopower was finally able this year to start building the first one,
thanks to a decision by China's Shanghai Electric Group Ltd to buy an
equity stake in Havana Energy. The JV is now looking for external
financing for the next four plants.

"We have to check whether the funders are open for the Cuban market or
not," said Zhengyue Chen, former investment manager at Shanghai Electric
and current Biopower chief financial officer.

RISKY INVESTMENT

Some international companies have shown an interest in gaining a
foothold in the slowly opening Cuban market, encouraged by a three-year
old investment law that allows full foreign ownership of renewables
projects.

Cuba last year signed a deal with Spain's Gamesa for the construction of
seven wind-powered plants and with Siemens for the upgrade of the
creaking power grid.

These are just preliminary agreements, however, which may not become
concrete contracts, Western diplomats based in Havana say, given
difficulty agreeing on a financing framework and actually securing the
funds.

On top of the U.S. trade embargo, which frightens banks from offering
Cuba loans, Cuba's payment capacity is questionable. While it has
improved its debt servicing record under President Raul Castro, it is
falling behind on paying foreign providers.

And it has little to offer as payment guarantees in hard currency. Its
state electricity utility generates revenue in Cuban pesos, which are
not traded internationally, only into convertible Cuban pesos at a
state-fixed rate. The government has promised to unify those two
currencies, but it is unclear how.

"If no currency indexation is provided from the government, significant
devaluation poses a great threat to investors' revenue," said World Bank
renewable energy expert Yao Zhao.

Moreover Cuba does not belong to multilateral institutions like the
Inter-American Development Bank that could provide external guarantees.

CHINESE FUNDING

That is likely to force further reliance on China, already Cuba's top
creditor in recent years, having offered loans as a way to hike trade
with the island. Shanghai Electric is importing and building the Ciro
Redondo plant, as well as helping finance it.

Project Manager Li Hui, already directing excavators shifting earth on
site, said he will stay on after the factory is built as the head of the
company's first branch in Cuba.

"We will hand them over a fully-functioning power plant," he said,
adding that Shanghai Electric had to bring over new building equipment
because the Cuban ones were antiquated and lacked spare parts.

But even Chinese largesse may have its limits. Chen said Biopower was
now in discussions with overseas funders, mainly from Europe, and hoped
to secure commercial funds for the second plant by the end of this year.

Macdonald said he hoped his project would be part of the launch of many
foreign participations in the energy sector.

"But today, we are still pioneers," he said.

(Editing by Christian Plumb and Edward Tobin)

Source: Lack of cash clouds Cuba's green energy outlook | Reuters -
http://www.reuters.com/article/us-cuba-energy-idUSKBN1720EB Continue reading
… of college and student debt. Cuban’s question seemed apropos of … move forward with these proposals. Cuban’s tweet doesn’t directly … . And during the presidential campaign, Cuban argued that a proposal from … students to more lucrative fields. Cuban also told an audience at … Continue reading
… problem of student debt ?— Mark Cuban (@mcuban) March 29, 2017 Trump … the $1.3-trillion student-debt crisis? Cuban’s tweet doesn’t directly … . And during the presidential campaign, Cuban argued that a proposal from … students to more lucrative fields. Cuban also told an audience at … Continue reading
14ymedio, Carmelo Mesa Lago, Miami, 5 March 2017 — In his speech to Congress last Tuesday, Donald Trump was magically transformed into a statesman and looked “presidential” for the first time. He offered something for every member of society: new infrastructure, one million jobs, paid maternity leave, cutbacks in the high cost of medicines, special education … Continue reading "After Trump, the Deluge / 14ymedio, Carmelo Mesa Lago" Continue reading
… for the ski hotels. In Cuba, Meliá results continue to improve … Cuba and Havana. The desired start of the normalization of relations between Cuba … to Havana and new non-stop connections to Varadero, Santiago de Cuba, Holguin … Continue reading
… out of the economy," Cuban blogged. "[This] is exactly … have seen so far." Cuban compared the current college debt … Continue reading
Athens, February 16 (RHC)-- A new report says Greece's economy has contracted in the fourth quarter of 2016 as the debt-laden country faces stalemate in negotiations with its creditors.  According to the report by the national statistical service of … Continue reading
Cuba: It Might Seem Stupid but…
February 9, 2017
By Fernando Ravsberg

HAVANA TIMES — The Cuban economy would be on the increase if half of the
Revolution's guardian angels – those who dedicate themselves to
monitoring what is written on every blog – spent their time chasing
corrupt and incompetent officials who steal and destroy the wealth that
other Cuban people generate.

This isn't my idea but that of one of Cartas desde Cuba's readers and it
stems from the fact that the Comptroller General of Cuba reported that
there were "losses" worth around 90 million pesos and 50 million USD, in
some companies that had been inspected in Havana.

During the debate that then kicked off on the blog, many people asked
why names of corrupt and incompetent officials weren't made public or
why we weren't informed of the dismissal of company leaders or those
sectors affected, just like the blog La Joven Cuba was "reported" in the
press, for example.

Cuba can't get rid of the blockade because that depends on the US
Congress. However, a lot could be done to counteract State company
"losses" in the millions, without which we will never reach the
productivity needed in order to raise wages.

The country's national economic situation is no joking matter. In 2016,
over 5 billion USD were paid on the country's foreign debt and, I
imagine, that this year this expenditure will be similar. If the
payments aren't made there are few credits available and those which
come, are loaded with huge interest rates.

As if that wasn't enough, Venezuela has cut oil exports to Cuba, which
the government pays for with medical services. Last year, only 55,000
barrels were delivered per day, around half of the amount that Cuba used
to receive when things were going well, when they were able to use,
refine and resell oil.

The situation needs to be changed urgently. In 2016, Cuba couldn't pay
some medium and short-term debts because they didn't have liquid funds.
The national economy needs to grow and in order for that to happen,
foreign investment is vital; about 2.5 billion USD per year, according
to Cuban economists.

However, these investments don't come or, rather, they do appear but
they get stuck in the marshy labyrinth of Cuban bureaucracy. And this is
how foreign businessmen spend their days in Cuba, losing hope while
they're told perhaps, perhaps perhaps…

Last year was very hard and this year looks like it will be too.
However, it could be a lot less difficult if things were handled more
decisively against incompetent and corrupt officials that squander
Cuba's scant resources and possibilities for development, as Vietnamese
economic advisers suggested to government officials.

Or maybe these officials are being dealt with and what Cuban citizens
are missing is transparency to explain why provincial leaders are being
arrested for having kept money from grants meant for home building or
those who sell official passports.

Lisandro Otero said that capitalism is so uncertain that the population
never knows what will happen, while in socialism, they never find out
what happened. Maybe if we were told a little more about some of these
cases, people would think twice before putting their hands in the State
treasury.

There are some people who oppose the idea that there should be greater
transparency because that way it would be public which leader "messed
up" and why. With such information we could save ourselves at least from
letting some known corrupt official, from a new government post, give us
lessons on revolutionary honor.

"When they steal from the State they are stealing from you."
To nobody's surprise, there are a group of "super-revolutionaries" who
dedicate their lives to blocking this information from ever reaching the
general population. They fight against blogs, websites and within the
national media against all of those who try to practice better journalism.

Their enemies aren't those who – from a ministry – take part in people
trafficking scams, or those who put a halt to foreign investment.
Likewise, they don't report those who rob social security funds or State
company managers who lose millions of dollars.

According to them, the greatest danger that the country faces today are…
bloggers. That's why they dedicate article after article to attack any
non-governmental statement in the blogosphere. They seek to convince the
Cuban people that wiping the bloggers out of cyberspace is a matter of
life and death for the Revolution.

With the very real problems that the economy is suffering, with the most
powerful country in the world's blockade still present, with hundreds of
thieves diverting resources and with incompetent bureaucracy hindering
the reforms process, looking for imaginary enemies might seem stupid and
it really is.

Source: Cuba: It Might Seem Stupid but… - Havana Times.org -
http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=123572 Continue reading
Mark Cuban encourages people not to finance … card debt  Self-made billionaire Mark Cuban is known for giving guidance … if you can," said Cuban. "Interest rates look to … Continue reading
Cuba experiencing an economic crisis
By Nora Gamez Torres
El Nuevo Herald Published Feb 7, 2017 at 12:02AM

MIAMI — The Cuban government reportedly paid $5.2 billion in 2016 to
meet its commitments after an extensive restructuring of its foreign
debt in the midst of an ongoing economic crisis not likely to improve
this year.

Despite growth in tourism — with a 15 percent increase in revenues for
the first half of 2016 that amounted to some $1.2 billion — the Cuban
economy will remain in the red this year, dragged down by foreign debt
obligations and the economic crisis in Venezuela, which provides
significant oil subsidies to the island nation.

While the Cuban government and the Economic Commission for Latin America
and the Caribbean, which uses the same official figures, predicted that
the gross domestic product will grow by 2 percent this year, economist
Pavel Vidal predicts a decrease of between 0.3 and 1.4 percent,
according to the latest report by the Cuba Standard Economic Trend Index.

The economic reforms undertaken by Cuban leader Raul Castro "had
promised a GDP growth of 5.1 percent, which was then adjusted to 4.4
percent. But the true average growth from 2008 to 2016 was barely 2.3
percent," the report states. "The ending couldn't have been any more
discouraging, with a recession in 2016 (-0.9 percent), and very
uncertain projections for 2017 in terms of a rapid reemergence from the
crisis and of what could happen with the Trump administration."

Vidal, a professor at the Javeriana University in Colombia and a former
official at the Cuban Central Bank, is the creator of the CSETI, an
index to measure the Cuban economy — published quarterly by Cuba
Standard — that correctly predicted the economic contraction in 2016.

Vidal estimates the Cuban government missed a payment of nearly 800
million dollars to providers and short-term debt contracts last year.
However, the government did pay the annual amount agreed after the
restructuring of its external debt with several members of the Paris
Club, according to former Cuban Minister of Economy, Jose Luis Rodriguez.

"To attract important volumes of foreign investment and new credits in
more favorable conditions, it was planned to pay around 5,299 million of
dollars ($5.2 billion) last year, a figure that according to the
information provided in the ANPP (National Assembly of People's Power)
was fulfilled, although a share of the short-term trade credits could
not be paid," Rodriguez said in an article posted on the Cuban website
Cubadebate.

Castro assured the Assembly at the end of last year that there would be
a "strict fulfillment of the obligations incurred as a result of the
rearrangement of the Cuban external debt," without providing figures. He
added that it was not possible to "overcome the temporary situation that
we are going through in the delay of payments to providers."

The reported foreign debt payment would have far exceeded revenue from
tourism last year, which Cuban economist Carmelo Mesa Lago estimates at
nearly $3 billion, as the official numbers have not yet been released.
The government provides no official figures of remittances from Cubans
abroad to relatives on the island, another important source of revenue
that could amount to another $3 billion, according to the Havana
Consulting Group.

But oil supply from Venezuela significantly decreased to 55,000 barrels
per day in 2016, as reported by Rodriguez — from 120,000 during the best
of times. Cuba has also lost around $1.3 billion in revenue from exports
of medical and other services to Venezuela, according to projections
made by island-based economist Omar Everleny Perez.

Source: Cuba experiencing an economic crisis; -
http://www.bendbulletin.com/business/5048402-153/cuba-experiencing-an-economic-crisis Continue reading
HAVANA, Cuba, Feb 7 (ACN) Cuban Vice-President and Minister of Economy … government and its ambassador to Havana for having signed the debt … between the European Union and Cuba. Both parties assessed the growing … Slovak companies to invest in Cuba, motivated by the facilities offered … Continue reading
Sherritt's nickel-price boost capped by debt, 'confusing' U.S. signals
on Cuba
Sunny Freeman | February 6, 2017 4:41 PM ET

David Pathe knows what it's like to be banned from the United States.

The chief executive of Toronto-based Sherritt International Corp.
received a letter from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security three
years ago saying he was no longer welcome in the U.S. because of the
miner's business dealings in Cuba.

"There's frankly a certain random element to it," said Pathe, who has
been with the company for 10 years and CEO for five.

"I tell people that and they're flabbergasted — a lot of Americans I
tell this to can't believe it."

Sherritt is a joint owner, along with the Cuban government, of the Moa
nickel and cobalt mining, processing and refining operations, and also
produces about two-thirds of Cuban oil. The company has been operating
under the status quo — including crippling U.S. economic embargo.


Pathe, who heads up the largest foreign company in Cuba, isn't holding
his breath for a change in policy toward the isolated communist island
under the new U.S. president any time soon. Nor is he planning any
visits with old friends in New York City.

The Trump administration announced Friday a "full review" of U.S. policy
toward Cuba, leaving many scratching their heads about potential
sanctions or renewed travel bans.

Like the anxious Cuban people, Pathe dreams of a more normalized state
of affairs between Cuba and the U.S — which could see the company be
able to export oil and metal to the U.S. and also realize cost-savings
from importing American made machinery into Cuba, as it does to its
Ambatovy mine in Madagascar.

"Cuba getting reintegrated into the international financial markets
would be positive for us and enable us to access the U.S. capital
markets in ways we can't today," Pathe said.

So far those signals have been "confusing and conflicting," he added.

Trump has been reportedly interested in opening hotels in Cuba but also
said during his campaign that he planned to get tough on Cuba, including
a potential shuttering of the newly reopened U.S. Embassy in Havana.

Under President Obama, relations with Cuba thawed, with more U.S.
travellers visiting the country. Pathe also noticed last year more
American companies present to "kick the tires" in the hopes of improved
trade flows between the two countries.

Pathe maintains his wait-and-see approach, given that he doesn't believe
Trump is ideological about relations with Cuba the way Republican
nominee rivals Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz might be, Pathe said in an
interview with the Financial Post.

" I don't think he's spent a great deal of time thinking about Cuba," he
said. "I frankly don't think Cuba is going to be very high on his agenda
for the next few years."

Meanwhile, the Sherritt CEO has other challenges to face, including a
depressed share price, a massive debt load related to development of
its 40 per cent owned, US$5.3 billion Ambatovy mine and a weak market
for nickel, its primary product. However, as a result of an agreement
with bondholders, the company holds and effective 12 per cent interest
in the mine. It has stopped funding its cash contributions to the mine
as a result.

Pathe said the company is seeing a slight rebound in nickel prices,
used to make stainless steel and other manufactured goods as the
underlying fundamentals improve and little new supply is slated to come
on the market.

Nickel has rallied of late amid a crackdown on mine production and
licences in the Phillipines, the world's top nickel producer. Sherritt's
share price has also surged 89 per cent in the past 12 months, but has
declined 79.3 per cent over five years. The stock rose 0.7 per cent on
the Toronto Stock Exchange to $1.36 on Monday.

The company forecasts an increase in nickel production in 2017 to
between 81,000 and 86,000 tonnes, up from 75,033 tonnes in 2016.
However, it expects lower oil production from its Cuban reserves in 2017
— about 11,000 to 12,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day, down from
15,452 in 2016 as the operation winds down.

Sherritt reports fourth-quarter and full year 2016 earnings on February 16.

sfreeman@postmedia.com
Twitter: @SunnyFreeman

Source: Sherritt's nickel-price boost capped by debt, 'confusing' U.S.
signals on Cuba | Financial Post -
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The Cuban government reportedly paid $5.2 billion in 2016 to meet its commitments after an extensive restructuring of its foreign debt in the midst of an ongoing economic crisis not … Click to Continue » Continue reading
… supplies of implants to the Cuban centralised market, Karel Volenec, executive … , foreign and agriculture ministries to Cuba in September. Ludvik replaced Nemecek … will be received by his Cuban counterpart Roberto Morales Ojeda. They … possibility of repayment of the Cuban debt that amounted to more … Continue reading
"I Did Not Enter This House Through The Window" / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar

Every night when Bisaida Azahares Correa goes to bed and looks at the
ceiling, she is afraid that when the sun comes up she will have leave
the house where she lives with her two children. This dwelling in the
Siboney neighborhood is her only chance of not ending up sleeping on the
street, but its walls are also the source of her major headaches.

The phrase "forced extraction" makes this well-spoken and
straight-talking woman shudder. The first time she read those two words
together was six months after her husband, Dr. Nelson Cabrera Quesada,
left on a medical mission to Saudi Arabia. Since then her life has been
turned upside down.

Life in the converted garage revolves around the impending eviction. A
situation that contrasts with the large mansions and opulent chalets –
where life seems almost bucolic – that surround the modest home of the
family.

A few yards away, the presence of bodyguards betrays the place where
Mariela Castro lives, the daughter of the Cuban president. Nearby is
also the spacious home of Armando Hart, former Minister of Culture. All
are Bisaida's neighbors, but they are not aware of the drama that
defines the life of this almost 50-year-old woman.

The Cuban authorities have recognized that the housing problem is the
primary social need in Cuba. Analysts estimate that the country has a
deficit of 600,000 homes, but in the last decade housing construction
has fallen by 20%.

In the midst of this situation, the so-called "forced removals" of those
who have occupied an abandoned state "shed," a property closed for years
due to the emigration of its owner, or who have erected a house on
vacant land, are frequent. But Bisaida's case is different.

An official notification recently ordered the family to leave the
property because it is owned by the University of Medical Sciences. The
woman vehemently questions that statement. She says that in 2005 she
settled in the house with her husband and their children to care for the
doctor's grandmother.

After the death of the lady, the couple did everything possible to
regularize the situation of the house that had been given to Cabrera
Quesada's grandfather in 1979 when he worked as an administrator in the
department of International Relations at the university. After living
there three years, the teacher won the right to have the property
separated from the institution and turned over to her

The law recognizes that "at the end of a housing claim" after a tenant
lives there for 15 years, "the municipal Housing Directorates issue a
Resolution-Title of Property in favor of the persons with the right and
who agree to pay the total in 180 monthly payments." In this case, the
family says they have settled the debt with the bank.

However, the twists and turns of the bureaucracy made the legal transfer
into the hands of the family impossible. The grandfather ended up
retiring and emigrating to the United States, although his wife remained
as the principal resident of the house until her death. Since then the
family has repeatedly tried to obtain the housing papers, but they have
only received threats.

Among the worst moments Bisaida remembers is the day they showed her
husband a document that declares they are illegal occupants. They were
given fifteen days to leave the house. Although the doctor wrote letters
of complaint "to all levels," the answer to his claim can be summed up
in two intimidating words: "no place."

The woman, who is recovering from breast and uterine cancer, says her
husband "has not had the support of any of the ministries involved in
his case nor of the University."

"All I want is justice, my husband's grandparents lived here for decades
and we've been here twelve years," complains Bisaida. She is not
demanding a gift or violating the law for her own pleasure. She only
wants the house to be passed on as personal property, as stipulated in
Resolution No. V-002/2014 of the Minister of Construction, Regulation of
Linked Homes and Basic Means.

Their situation forces them to live virtually locked up.

"We are afraid to leave," the woman laments. They fear that once outside
the house the authorities will take advantage to block access or place
an official seal on the door.

"I did not enter this house through the window," says Bisaida. She shows
the address that appears on her identity card and that matches letter by
letter with the location of the small garage.

Source: "I Did Not Enter This House Through The Window" / 14ymedio, Luz
Escobar – Translating Cuba -
https://translatingcuba.com/i-did-not-enter-this-house-through-the-window-14ymedio-luz-escobar/ Continue reading
Every night when Bisaida Azahares Correa goes to bed and looks at the ceiling, she is afraid that when the sun comes up she will have leave the house where she lives with her two children. This dwelling in the Siboney neighborhood is her only chance of not ending up sleeping on the street, but its … Continue reading "“I Did Not Enter This House Through The Window” / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar" Continue reading
… out the red carpet for Cuban Vice-President Valdes Mesa and his … a debt of gratitude to Cuba and its late revolutionary leader … among people who, like the Cuban people, are conducting armed struggles … . “Led by commander-in-chief Fidel Castro, Cuban soldiers selflessly sacrificed their lives … Continue reading
Obama Leaves A Poisoned Gift To Trump And Castro / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos

14ymedio, Pedro Campos, 16 January 2017 — Raul Castro's government,
after reestablishing diplomatic relations with Washington and easing
international pressures – which allowed it to renegotiate a large part
of its foreign debt – did all it could to prevent the rapprochement from
resulting in increased business with the United States and its internal
influence in Cuba.

Many called President Obama's policy toward the island a failure and
systematically blamed the president for giving the Castro government
everything in exchange for nothing.

Havana's demands increased and hardened. The Cuban government continued
to blame the "blockade" and the Cuban Adjustment Act for the country's
economic disaster and the stampede of Cuban citizens to the United
States, while nothing or little was done to alleviate the internal
situation, improve democratic prospects and take advantage of the
possibilities offered by the Obama's executive orders.

Few comment that the end of the "wet foot/dry foot" policy – a "gift"
from Obama a few days before handing the government over to his
successor – can put both Raul Castro and Donald Trump in check, because
the closure of this escape valve could generate such an increase in the
internal pressure within Cuba that it will destabilize the government
and force it to undertake changes it has never wanted to, or confront a
crisis of incalculable consequences.

The challenge would be not only for Raul Castro, but also for the new
tenant in the White House, who until recently denied that Obama was born
in the United States and announced an strong hand with Cuba. It will not
be the outgoing president who now has to face the eventual complications
generated by a pressure cooker on the verge of exploding on the southern
border of the United States, who always tried to avoid the country's
intelligence with its impossible complications.

The person who will have to deal with this from the north – with the
consequences of this decision and all its effects and who would have
preferred not to have to mention it, for its undesired effects – is
going to be Donald Trump and not Barack Obama.

Both the president-elect of the United States and Raul Castro are going
to have to see what they can do to avoid unleashing the hitherto
contained anger of the Cuban people, when hundreds of thousands of young
people realize that they have no hope of improving their lives outside
the system that blocks them.

Undoubtedly, the "horse's head" would be for Trump, but the worst part
could touch the government of Raul Castro in his final year, a man who
did not know, did not want to, or could not, take advantage of the
opportunities offered by Obama and instead offered an elegant farewell,
in the mouth of his soldiers: a crown of lead for his head.

Now, the outgoing president, so attacked by Trump in his campaign and
whose hand outstretched towards Raul was not equally returned, will be
able to lounge comfortably in the front row to enjoy the spectacle that
could be generated – and is already being generated (thousands of Cubans
on the way, spread from Ecuador to Mexico, with an uncertain future) –
by his final measure, which the Cuban people will end up suffering.

Source: Obama Leaves A Poisoned Gift To Trump And Castro / 14ymedio,
Pedro Campos – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/obama-leaves-a-poisoned-gift-to-trump-and-castro-14ymedio-pedro-campos/ Continue reading
14ymedio, Pedro Campos, 16 January 2017 — Raul Castro’s government, after reestablishing diplomatic relations with Washington and easing international pressures – which allowed it to renegotiate a large part of its foreign debt – did all it could to prevent the rapprochement from resulting in increased business with the United States and its internal influence … Continue reading "Obama Leaves A Poisoned Gift To Trump And Castro / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos" Continue reading
Can Cuba Overcome the Prejudice against Investment?
January 5, 2017
by Fernando Ravsberg

HAVANA TIMES — Ending the year, President Raul Castro announced to the
legislature that financial constraints in 2017 "could even get worse in
certain circumstances" but even then we would be able to get the "GDP
growing at a moderate rate around 2%."

One of the key reasons for economic decline in 2016 was insufficient
foreign investment which barely reached 6.5%. This didn't play a
"fundamental role in the country's development," explained Cuba's
Minister of Economy and Planning, Ricardo Cabrisas, to legislators.

Raul Castro recognized the fact that "there had been excessive delays on
a frequent basis in the negotiations process" on behalf of some Cuban
decision-makers and he called on them to "overcome their out-dated
mentality once and for all which is full of prejudice against foreign
investment."

He repeated that "we aren't heading towards capitalism, that is
completely off the table, that is what our Constitution says and will
continue to say," but he added that "we shouldn't be afraid or put
obstacles in the way to what we can do within the country's existing
legal framework.

Cuba is advancing at an incredibly slow rate. Even though reforms were
supported by millions of Cubans in People Assemblies, only 21% of them
have been applied 5 years later, without there being a public
explanation for the causes of such delays.

The Mariel Special Development Zone is the best example of this, only 19
investments have been made in 2 years, while hundreds of foreign
companies are waiting for a response. They act as if the country doesn't
need money, technology, knowledge, markets and jobs.

And this level of slowness is repeated across the entire investment
process, including what happened to a project which had been given
priority due to its social importance. In spite of the fact that this
project had been personally requested for by Raul Castro, bureaucracy
meant it took a year alone just to figure out where it would be located.

Former Economy Minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez, claims that Cuba needs to
grow at "a stable rate above 5% per year, which will inherently imply
that foreign investment needs to be above 20%." However, in an
underdeveloped country, with very few natural resources and in great
debt, the bulk of investment can only come from abroad.

There is a huge need for this investment; however, there is a huge gap
between analyses and decision-making, between the economy's urgency and
the calm nature of bureaucrats who are processing these investments,
between the Cuban people's needs and the limited opening to
self-employed labor or between low productivity and the lack of autonomy
at state-run companies.

Cuba is at the middle of many crossroads, it needs to pay off its
foreign debt if it wants international credit, it needs to change its
energy model so that it doesn't rely solely on oil, it needs to increase
food production, saving on imports and increasing people's buying power
so that they can get by to the end of the month without having to steal.

Because stealing bleeds the economy dry at a surprising rate. According
to Beatriz Johnson Urrutia, a representative from Santiago de Cuba, half
of the oil supples were being diverted and sold on the black market in
her province. She explained that just by controlling the three main
distribution centers increased the availability of oil two-fold.

Ironically, those who "are afraid" of Capitalism being restored on the
island, are the same people who are opening up the way to it. If
socialism isn't able to create wealth to keep what has been earned up
until now and convert Cubans into a prosperous people, people will try
and do this by other means sooner or later.

Even those who ideologically support the Cuban Revolution are
"materializing" it in its social achievements. However, education,
healthcare, culture or sports have extremely high and increasing cost
which needs to be funded by economic sectors which are in desperate need
of investment and modernization.

Without foreign investment, there won't be any economic progress.
Without progress, there won't be any financial resources. Without
financial resources, the Revolution's social achievements won't be
sustained. Without its social achievements, the Revolution will die. And
Socialism will also disappear along with

Source: Can Cuba Overcome the Prejudice against Investment? - Havana
Times.org - http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=122989 Continue reading
In Cuba Everybody Wants My Money
December 22, 2016
By Yudarkis Veloz Sarduy (Progreso Semanal)

HAVANA TIMES — In my household, nobody could believe what journalist
Boris Fuentes was telling us on the "Cuba Says" segment of the National
News on Cuban TV one night at the end of November.

If a bunch of onions costs 30 pesos in one market, the same bunch could
cost you as much as 70 in another, and a pepper, take note, one bell
pepper, just one, could cost you as much as 15 pesos. The reporter also
talked about the price of steaks: 40 or 50 pesos, and salesmen said that
if they received meat for 25 pesos, they couldn't sell it for less than
50 so as to earn "a little". A little?

I couldn't help but remember that chorus in "Todos se roban" (Everybody
steals) by Carlos Varela and I continued to watch spellbound before the
revelation of the bad weights on scales at markets and packets that
don't reach a full pound. A victim myself of all of this, far from being
pleased that government media were finally keeping tabs on this subject,
I swallowed my enormous grief and shame.

Well there you have it, Havana is another country, and inside Havana
there are another many different countries. In Regla, you can paint your
nails for 10 pesos, but in some private salons in Vedado they charge you
3 CUC (75 pesos). And I used to pay just 2 Cuban pesos a few years ago
for the same hand treatment, and between one and the other, the salon in
Regla and Vedado, is there only a difference in glamour? Not really:
they both use the same nail polishes and even – I was able to verify
this at the De Luce Unisex Salon, on 23 and F Streets, that they don't
even use the expensive gloss, they fill up small bottles that were once
L'Oreal or Golden Rose with what they buy in bulk

A friend of mine paid 15 CUC there to have her hair washed and styled
with a brush and hairdryer. What's happening to the Cuban people? My
dear friend, 15 CUC are 375 Cuban pesos, the basic monthly salary of
many ordinary Cubans. How are there people who charge this amount? But
worst still, how are there people, and a lot of them – because otherwise
prices would have been lowered by now – who pay these exorbitant amounts?

However, I don't think you should question the person who progresses and
increases their income with the money that other people pay them for a
service. Not when products in hard-currency stores are taxed 200% on top
of what it cost the country to buy them abroad. With or without the
blockade, this is a mind-boggling affair.

The same Nivea shower gel bottle you can buy "abroad" for 2 euros, costs
6 CUC in Cuba, and on top of that, remember that 2 European euros are 2
euros out of a basic salary of 1000 euros, while 6 of our CUC are 150
pesos out of an average salary here of 687 CUP.

How many days does a Cuban person who earns an average salary have to
work to buy, not a bottle of Nivea shower gel, as this could be
considered a luxury, but a pair of shoes which cost, those of an
extremely poor quality, 20 CUC?

The most basic of math: 20 multiplied by 25 = 500, 687 divided by 24
(number of working days in a month) = 28.62

A Cuban who earns an average salary earns 28.62 Cuban pesos a day, so,
500 divided by 28.62 = 17.47 days

A Cuban has to pay what they earn working for nearly 18 days in a month
for a pair of shoes of of very questionable quality, and will their
salary for the remaining 6 working days in the month be enough for them
to eat, clean themselves, pay for urban transportation and the rest of
their daily needs?

Everything is extremely surreal in this country. People survive, they
fall into debt by asking for loans, they set up businesses, they resort
to this Cuban magic which even those of us who practice it so much don't
really know what it's made up of, and we survive one more month, making
projects and we're offended by the prices in stores but we continue to
pay them for products we need.

Luckily, the boat which crosses the bay still only costs 10 Cuban cents
although they don't always give you all of the change, like on the
buses, and its best that I don't go into that. And luckily, there are
still regulated products and that ration book which don't last until the
end of the month either. Luckily yes, we have healthcare, and
education…, but it isn't news for any newspaper that what you take on
the side for the doctor ensures medical assistance, can move up an
appointment, and improves the treatment you receive or can make possible
a surgery.

A small act of kindness

What we have become is painful to see. "A small act of kindness", the
girls at the housing office call what they ask from people who are
desperate because the process is too bureaucratic and takes longer than
they can wait depending on their personal circumstances or any rational
logic.

And "a little act of kindness" is the CUC which is given as a gift to
the dentist who does have the material needed to do a filling. "A little
act of kindness" are the 50 pesos which somebody pays on top of the
price of their bus ticket which no longer appears at any agency, but
there is always one where it does. And I'm NOT talking about bribery.
Let's not be gullible.

I get goosebumps when I hear at Camaguey bus station: "Havana, Havana,
ticket to Havana," and when I get closer and ask because I really need
to get there, I'm told that for 15 CUC I can get onto the bus that is
about to leave, and that I shouldn't worry, that those 15 CUC include
the ticket office's price. And rightly so!

Luckily, there is always a manager on shift who isn't too rigid and sees
that you really need to go by looking in your eyes and helps you, and
doesn't even want to accept the 14 pesos change that he has to give you
for the 106 pesos that the trip in the Yutong bus costs you, and you
find yourself pinching yourself and giving a sideways glance while you
do the math, knowing he'll make enough with the overpriced tickets he
sells to everybody else," and you thank him and even hug him, because
"in Cuba people don't help you without 'a little kindness', you should
know that by now."

In order to get an appointment at the Mexican Embassy, you have to pay
30 CUC to somebody who only God knows how they manage to do it, and they
do, in most cases, but it's already agreed in advance that if it doesn't
take place in the end, they'll give you back 25 CUC. What is this? What
diabolic mechanism has encouraged the fact that in order to "manage"
something you have to let go and let go and let go, and at these prices?

Then there's a Cuban passport which costs 100 CUC, one of the most
expensive in the world if we go back and work out just how many days a
Cuban person has to work in order to pay this sum. And getting a birth
certificate, a marriage or death certificate, final wishes and an
inheritance declaration cost 50 CUC at the Legal office, and of course,
this is so it has validity abroad. But you're still paying out of a
Cuban pocket, or out of the pocket of another Cuban who had to leave the
country beforehand so as to pay for all of these authorizations, legal
fees and charges; and others.

Then you find yourself asking why a milkshake costs 25 pesos, a glass of
fruit milkshake, my God, in one of those new places that have sprung up
all over Vedado, and you drink it thinking that the 5 peso juices on
Obispo Street have a lot more flavor and are four times cheaper, but
you're not going to pay those 10 – or is it 20? – pesos that the old
collective taxis charge just so you can satisfy your palate and your
wallet, even though you have to pay 25 CUC this afternoon to the man who
put in your window even though you bought all of the materials needed.

"Everybody wants my money," Meryl Streep says in the movie Music of The
Heart where she plays a violin teacher, and I imagine that this is a
global issue, but do all currencies have this irrational exchange rate?
This unscrupulous reality? This feeling that you're being taken
advantage of? And most of all, in a society where we supposedly fight
for the complete opposite?

"They steal from you when you're sitting in front of the TV and they
steal from you when you're at a counter, and they rob your will, your
will to love," sings Carlos Varela, and it pains me to admit that the
project has been twisted to such an extent, and I become overwhelmed
with despair.

Source: In Cuba Everybody Wants My Money - Havana Times.org -
http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=122759 Continue reading
… rum. Cuba owes some $270 million to the former Czechoslovakia, Havana’s … to pay off Cuba’s entire debt. The Cuban government has also … the debt in pharmaceutical drugs. Havana’s drugs, however, lack European … Cold War debt: Rum, Czechoslovakia, Havana, WorldTribune.com Be Sociable, Share … Continue reading
Another Socialist Economic Innovation - Cuba Reinvents Barter With Rum
For Czech Republic

Tim Worstall , CONTRIBUTOR
I have opinions about economics, finance and public policy.
Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

One of the things which truly puzzles about the general enthusiasm for
socialism in certain quarters is quite why people keep claiming that
it's a successful economic system. Given that places which are socialist
never have any money and thus the living standards of the people are
pretty foul the claim just seems to run contrary to basic logic. Indeed,
the system seems to be regressive, not progressive, as here with Cuba
trying to reinvent barter. You know, barter, that system we all
abandoned once we worked out the value of the greater division and
specialisation of labour, with more people, available through the use of
money and free markets?

But this is what is happening, Cuba is offering a barter deal to the
Czech Republic:

Cuba has come up with an unusual way to repay its multimillion dollar
debt to the Czech Republic - bottles of its famous rum, officials in
Prague say.
The Czech finance ministry said Havana had raised this possibility
during recent negotiations on the issue.
Cuba owes the Czech authorities $276m (£222m), and if the offer is
accepted the Czechs would have enough Cuban rum for more than a century.

As someone currently sitting in the Czech Republic I would say that that
claim of a century's supply is not correct. As someone who works in
journalism and thus someone who is no stranger to the iniquities of the
demon rum I would say that it is definitely not true. It is not true to
say that the Czechs are a sodden nation but alcohol does play its part
in the social system here. A meeting for a couple of beers of an evening
might well be enlivened by a round or two of shots ("panaki") for
example. And the idea of more Cuban rum floating around does
appeal--there is a local rum-like concoction which is really potato
vodka flavoured and coloured with caramel. The bottled sweat and tears
of the Cuban students sent out to cut the sugar cane would be an
improvement upon that.

The AP quoted data from the Czech Statistics Office, which showed that
the Czechs imported $2m worth of rum from Cuba in 2015.

Definitely not true then. For any greater imports of Cuban rum would
lead to substitution effects. Less rum imported from other nations, less
of the home grown fire waters consumed and so on. Well, actually,
knowing the Czech sense of humour we might just see the introduction of
the Cuban round of shots. Come on lads, drink up, we've got to help Cuba
pay its debts (Good Soldier Svejk does come from these parts after
all--bloke comes back late from the pub and tells his wife there was
money off shots that night. So he stayed to maximise the amount of money
they saved. Next evening he tells her he's off to spend the money he had
saved....)

However, it's the Washington Post that manages to get this completely wrong:

Cuba, a communist isle stifled for decades by a U.S. embargo, is saddled
by tremendous external debt — measured at the end of 2014 to be about
$24.7 billion, or 31 percent of the country's gross domestic product. In
the 1970s and 1980s, Cuba took out development loans from private
non-U.S. banks and then defaulted in 1986.

How is that stifling embargo consistent with being able to take out
massive foreign debts? If you are cut off from the global economy then
you're cut off--if you've substantial debt to that global economy then
you're not cut off from it, are you? You have obviously been interacting
with it to run up the debt in the first place.

It's also a misnomer to call 31% of GDP in external debt "tremendous."
Luxembourg is not impoverished by having external debt of 3,443 % of
GDP, the UK of 569 % nor the US with 114 %. It's entirely true that such
levels, even one of 31 %, can be problematic. But the problem is not the
level of debt, it's what was done with the money owed plus the ability
of the economy owing it to produce something to service it. And that's
what Cuba's problem is. The island produces very little of value. This
is why the people there are poor of course--producing little of value
will mean that little of value can be consumed.

And thus this regression back to older forms of commerce, the retreat
from free markets and money into barter. We are all very much richer
because we live in economies with those two things, markets and the
money that make them work. And the foolishness of Cuban economic
management is what both means they desire to use barter and also why the
island and its people are poor.

Sitting at this end of the trade in Bohemia of course they can send all
the rum they want to. But that that's all they have to send is entirely
the fault of that Cuban socialism of the past 55 years.

Source: Another Socialist Economic Innovation - Cuba Reinvents Barter
With Rum For Czech Republic -
http://www.forbes.com/sites/timworstall/2016/12/16/another-socialist-economic-innovation-cuba-reinvents-barter-with-rum-for-czech-republic/#3549add42f3f Continue reading
… Sunday that a shipment of Cuban medicines has arrived in Syria … agreement signed between Syria and Cuba last April about banking arrangements … of the debt owed by Cuba to Syria, in addition to … drugs and pharmaceutical products with Cuban companies. M. al-Frieh/H. Said Continue reading
… Czech Republic has revealed that Cuba has offered an unusual way … Zurovec said on Thursday that Cuban authorities have proposed to pay … , the Czech would have enough Cuban rum for well over a … , the Czechs imported rum from Cuba worth over US$2 million … Continue reading
Cuba has offered to repay the … it imported 892 tons of Cuban rum worth 53 million koruna … ministry spokesman Michal Zurovec said Cuba proposed to pay back $276 … to current Czech consumption rates. Cuba is not the first to … Continue reading
… , told CNBC via e-mail that Cuba had suggested a range of … explained. Cuba has a dual currency system in which Cuban pesos (CUP) are used by locals, alongside the Cuban convertible … currency is available outside of Cuba. This is not the first … Continue reading
… the Czech finance ministry. “The Cuban party as a possible solution … legacy of business ties between Cuba and Czechoslovakia, which split into … , as saying debt repayment in Cuban rum was “an interesting option … – had imported 892 tonnes of Cuban rum worth 53m koruna ($2m … Continue reading
… paid in cash. "The Cuban side has offered a list … of stringent European Union regulations. Cuban officials were not immediately available … . Flying to Cuba: What you need to know Cuba accumulated huge external … of their Cuban debt and wave some payments. In exchange, Cuba agreed … Continue reading
… Ministry spokesman Michal Zurovec said Cuban officials had offered paying back … in. The Cubans counter that the United States owes Havana “billions of dollars” for its embargo and strangling of the Cuban economy. If the Czech Republic accept Cuba’s offer … Continue reading
… Ministry spokesman Michal Zurovec said Cuban officials had offered paying back … in. The Cubans counter that the United States owes Havana “billions of dollars” for its embargo and strangling of the Cuban economy. If the Czech Republic accept Cuba’s offer … Continue reading
… paid in cash. "The Cuban side has offered a list … of stringent European Union regulations. Cuban officials were not immediately available … . Flying to Cuba: What you need to know Cuba accumulated huge external … of their Cuban debt and wave some payments. In exchange, Cuba agreed … Continue reading
… Republic in rum, a trademark Cuban commodity. Michal Zurovec, a spokesman … Czech finance ministry, said that Cuban authorities have proposed to pay … ’s.  Pernod Ricard's Havana Club is the fifth-largest rum … for the Cuban rum brand. Pictures of everyday life in Cuba In … Continue reading
… said on Friday. "The Cuban party as a possible solution … legacy of business ties between Cuba and Czechoslovakia, which split into … as saying debt repayment in Cuban rum was "an interesting … had imported 892 tonnes of Cuban rum worth 53 million koruna … Continue reading
Cuba has offered to pay back … Czech finance ministry said that Cuban authorities offered its trademark tipple … Continue reading
Cuba has reportedly offered an unusual … Czech finance ministry, said that Cuban authorities have proposed to pay … the country would have enough Cuban rum for well over a … , the Czechs imported rum from Cuba worth over US $2 million … Continue reading
… . The Czech Finance Ministry says Cuba has offered its trademark rum … spokesman Michal Zurovec said that Cuban authorities have proposed to pay … , the Czech would have enough Cuban rum for well over a … , the Czechs imported rum from Cuba worth over $2 million (£1 … Continue reading
… caption Cuban rum is a popular tipple in the Czech Republic CubaHavana had raised this possibility during recent negotiations on the issue. Cuba … of the money in cash. Havana's debt dates back … rum or pharmaceutical drugs. But Cuban drugs lack EU certification, so … Continue reading