Monday, September 05, 2011

Cuba is changing.

Thanks to Mike of The Nellie Blog for passing along a link to this excellent article and short film about the changes to Cuba's economy from Al Jazeera, of all places.

Couple of observations:

Everybody - and I mean everybody, including kids - always had some kind of a sideline going. I don't think I've ever met a Cuban who wasn't giving informal tours, running an illegal taxi service, selling something out of their house, etc. All the reforms are doing is bringing the black market economy above-ground (and creating some new businesses, like cafeterias, which couldn't operate on the black market because they were too visible). I always found it ironic that Cubans are by far the most entrepreneurial people I'd ever met.

Secondly, the film nails what is going to possibly kill this reform unless they fix it - the ponderous Cuban bureaucracy. That hasn't been updated to support the needs of the new entrepreneurs. The bureaucracy is the bane of every Cubans' existence, and the few brushes I've had with it show it to be maddening. A phrase you hear frequently along with a shrug is, "Es Cuba". Fatalistic. If they don't break that culture the reforms are doomed to fail.

I was amused at the lady's repaired bathroom. That's one of the nicest private bathrooms I've ever seen in Cuba. Note no toilet seat. Outside of the resorts, they don't seem to exist. I hope she gets her habitation paperwork sorted. The tv show featuring letters of complaint amazed me. I couldn't have imagined the regime tolerating that when we first started going there. But everyone agrees that Raul has to do something extreme.

These reforms - at least, the beginnings of them - had already been announced the last time we were there. Cubans we spoke to were remarkably upbeat about them. (A couple of them noted that they had already been offering services illegally - now they could do it above-board.) However, a lot of civil servants are being let go. They all have to figure out some kind of business or trade.

The times, they are a-changing.




Blogger Dann said...

Does 'pruning' qualify as 'reform' for their bureaucracy?

I remember a story I watched several years ago on PBS about India. They interviewed some bureaucrat that talked about improving the economy. He emphatically stated that business owners could never know what to produce or how to produce it without the bureaucracy to tell them 'what' and 'how'.


The most contemptible 'paperwork' that one offers to get jobs like toilet repairs done is the folding kind that must be given to an alderman, councilman, or local ward 'captain'.

10:00 p.m.  
Blogger Xtreme English said...

Thanks for your enlightening post re Cuba. I can hardly say the country's name over here without upsetting at least half of my Facebook friends--especially the ones in Florida. Pro or con, matters not. That said, I continue to be VERY JEALOUS (ENVIOUS?) of you Canucks tripping back & forth there. I pine for such freedom to travel to such a lovely place that's really right offshore!

1:53 p.m.  
Blogger Sherwood Harrington said...

Thanks to you and Mike. As ME says, it's enlightening in a raise-the-eyebrows way.

Al-Jazeera is quickly becoming one of my go-to news sources when I want apparently unbiased news with a global perspective, so it doesn't surprise me that this is from A-J.

3:20 p.m.  
Anonymous tarmac driveways wolverhampton said...

This is the best post on this topic I have ever read. I am really very impressed with it. Keep blogging!

7:48 a.m.  
Blogger Mike said...

What Cuba really needs is more tarmac driveways. If only we knew a source ...

9:37 p.m.  

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