Wednesday Night #1306 Jacques Clément Report on Cuba

Written by  //  March 14, 2007  //  Economy, Geopolitics, Jacques Clément, Wednesday Nights  //  No comments

14 March 2007

With a population of thirteen million people, the economy grew by five percent last year, led by very strong growth in tourism, solid growth in exports of sugar, tobacco, nickel, fish and farm products.

Tourist income has risen for the sixteenth consecutive year with gross income over ten times that in 1989. It is now the number one industry in Cuba with a growth rate of fifty percent. There is heavy investment in construction and installations, with twenty-five joint ventures with Spain, France, Italy, Germany, Canada, Mexico and the Netherlands. Tourism employs over ninety thousand workers (thirty-six percent women), fifty-six percent being university graduates. Tourist arrivals are growing by over twenty percent per year, led by Germans, Canadians, British, Argentineans, Spanish, French, Hungarians and Russians. There have been great advances in hotel management, use of local produce and supplies.
Everyone who wants to work in Cuba has a job, but the average monthly salary is under twenty dollars. [Editor’s note: unfortunately, many jobs are menial and ill-suited to the high preponderance of university graduates who fill them.] They are now able to supplement their low wages as they receive two percent of the profits in the hotel industry. The government intends to introduce legislation to abolish tourist tips and gifts, returning to the Castro regime. The people get free transportation, subsidies for housing, but with a real lack of houses, they are forced to live with parents and grandparents. Milk is rationed and there is a rice subsidy. Electricity costs two dollars a month. They pay no taxes. University is free if students have succeeded in their primary and secondary education.
They have the highest literacy rate and lowest infant mortality rate in Latin America.
The average life expectancy is over seventy-five years versus sixty years in 1959.
Cuban doctors (who earn about 30 dollars a month) have broken new ground in biotechnology and vaccines. [Editor’s note: see Wednesday Night #1255 for the Montreal connection.) There are prestigious intensive care units.
They do a lot of business with Asia, Spain, Vietnam, China, Japan and Italy. They have applied for the Olympics in 2012 or 2016. They are part of the group of seventy-seven countries including Africa, Asia and Latin America.
Since the 1959 revolution, over one million Cubans have fled. There are over five hundred thousands applications for visas to the United States each year. The country is no more democratic than before. The United States has allowed some ties with Cuba, permitting over fifteen hundred dollars to be sent back by exiles to their Cuban families, except for high-ranking Cuban officials. There is also sale of some food to independent and charitable entities.
There are massive demonstrations seeking the release of journalist dissidents who have promoted U.S. sanctions. There is little drug trafficking on the island. Prostitution has been abolished in Varadero and some of the surrounding provinces, but is still flourishing in Havana, subject to multiples of five years in jail for each offence
Cuba is the largest island in the Antilles, with fourteen provinces. Since the agreement signed in 1977, Canada is doing more business with Cuba. Sherritt has the exploration and refining contract for their oil industry.
Fidel Castro is seventy-eight years old and you hardly see him on Cuban television any more, in contrast to the past when he was on at least every week. He is still revered, but there is discussion of the succession. Reports of his health have not been positive. After over three hundred years of colonialism, over sixty-five years of hate of the Americans, forty-three years since the U.S. embargo and fourteen years since Russia discontinued their four billion dollar subsidies, I do not sense that Cubans would move from socialism having never known the alternative of political and economic freedom.

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