Economic Inequalities in Cuba are Increasing

Fidel Castro dedicating himself to the cultivation of moringa. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Elías Amor Bravo, Economist, 21 December 2022 — When it comes to the analysis of the Cuban economy, the same conclusion can always be reached: the communist model of intervention and maximum control of the means of production has caused enormous inequalities and injustices in society. But in the absence of a Gini index for Cuba, which would measure income inequality and other similar indicators, the regime shields itself in the positions it occupies in the United Nations human development indices.

The reality, however, is far away, and you don’t see it in what the state press reports these days. There are two news reports, and each one is more distant and different. On the one hand, we have First Prime Minister Marrero celebrating the fifth anniversary of the founding of the Center for Research of Protein Plants and Bionatural Products, an entity that, like other similar ones, was created by Fidel Castro when he became obsessed with the food properties of moringa. There is that center, which has been operating for five years like everything else in Cuba, throwing away public spending, as if the money fell from the sky.

Marrero highlighted in his speech the influence of Castro on the programs of this entity, which has as its fundamental objective to contribute to the improvement of the health and food of the people, with something as “essential” as leaves of the moringa tree. There are still those who remember Castro in his last years, walking among the trees and confirming that, even in those final moments of his life, he was not willing to leave a puppet and wanted to impose his own irrelevant ideas.

Marrero said that “Fidel Castro said that these solutions could mitigate the negative impact of food crises and contribute to the Food and Nutritional Sovereignty Program,” the same program against which Díaz-Canel lashed out in the assembly a few days ago, in one of the few moments of lucidity of the communist leader, saying that a law was useless if the farmers didn’t produce.

Marrero described the center as a model for the program of protein forage plants and stressed that, among its challenges, it tries to “bring innovation and training to the different productive scenarios for the recovery of livestock, to advance in the scientific lines linked to biomedicine and to consolidate its management model with the stable functioning of the more than 49 work groups created.” When it comes to creating structures dependent on the budgeted sector that increase the deficit, Cuban communists do not skimp on expenses.

So, even though this center must “develop sustainable value chains by obtaining new scientific results and bring innovation to the spaces and sectors of society where possible to achieve  sovereignty and food and nutritional security of the population,” the results are still far from being produced. For everything else, it is intended that “the generalization of the experiences of the center take place” assuming that its results, which have not yet taken place, will certainly be produced.

In short, a center and an act tailored to Marrero, to testify to his loyalty to Fidel Castro in times when the Castro regime is at a complex crossroads.

And here come the injustices.

Because in the same edition of Granma, there is other information that shows the enormous inequalities that exist on the Island. From the neatness of the moringa research center and the comfort of the Havana convention center, to the sad reality of the dirt floors that exist in numerous homes, especially in the rural municipalities of the interior of the country. Yes. You heard right. This is one of the challenges of housing policy in Cuba: the program for the eradication of dirt floors in the country. And they’ve been facing the challenge for 63 years and haven’t been able to do anything about it.

Now it turns out that the situation is aggravated, above all by the embargo/blockade, but also by the reduction in the production of various construction materials (including cement, sand aggregate and steel), which “has had notable effects on the program, along with structural changes and financial impacts that limit its application to numerous users.”

The information refers to the province of Granma, one of the most affected with 35,834 homes with dirt floors, a figure that may even be higher. Five years ago, it exceeded 53,000 in the territory. For this year, some 4,439 floors had been planned, of which only 1,462 had been completed by the beginning of December, a budget that does not exceed 50% of the integral financing that was initially foreseen. At this rate, not even in ten years will they solve the challenge.

To this is added the increased cost of the action to eliminate dirt floors in the last two years, exceeding 15,000 pesos; that is, the elimination of a floor in a house of about 538 square feet could be on the order of 25,000 pesos (about 138 dollars at the informal exchange rate).

Also, many of the homes are illegal and not recognized in the province’s housing fund, which limits the constructive actions on the terms indicated.

When the state organization fails, those affected try alternatives, but they are not sufficiently exploited either by the state entities, which can produce them, or by the customers themselves, through their own effort, so everything ends badly. The communists are still determined to direct and monitor the process, but it is getting worse and worse, and they are not able to efficiently take advantage of the natural resources of the municipalities, or provide local development programs that are useful. The limitations in the production of cement by the national industry condition any approach, and therefore, homes continue to have dirt floors. And the cost of repair is about 138 dollars.

What solutions do the communists offer? The furthest from reality, and all of them out of the state budget.

First, extending production to the territories, which goes against reaching the technical scale of production with larger series that would reduce unit costs to a minimum.

Second, producing alternatives to cement, such as trimmed marble or extenders, like LC3 cement and others obtained from lime and zeolite, with the aim of doubling the strength of the cement.

Third, the reality of the problem requires greater efficiency, control and agility in productive objectives. And this from the state is going to be very complicated.

From moringa research to rural homes with dirt floors. Two realities that clash in the communist economic model of the revolution, and that are presented before the eyes of society analysts as two examples of the poor coordination of the regime’s decisions under the state budgets.

Here you should ask yourself, what is the priority for a government that claims to be a defender of the poor? And then see what is really the priority. The hotel rooms? The moringa research center? The inequalities are scandalous.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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