Scarcely 59 Percent of Passenger Transport in Cuba is Operating

Caption: In some provinces, the availability of vehicles doesn’t even reach 30%. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 12 December 2022 — Passenger transport in Cuba is in a limited situation, as revealed this Sunday in the parliamentary committee on attention to services, which took place in the presence of the Prime Minister, Manuel Marrero Cruz. The plan has been fulfilled by just 59%, said Eduardo Rodríguez Dávila, Minister of Transport, since it was intended to reach 1.733 billion passenger trips* (17% less than before the pandemic), and only 1.5 billion can be transported.

The reasons are the lack of fuel and technical capacity, which, in turn, causes losses for the sector. According to the report, the technical availability coefficient, which determines the proportion of vehicles in useful condition, is barely 42%, but there are areas where the figure sinks even lower, such as Pinar del Río (30%), Guantánamo (26%) and Santiago de Cuba (23%).

By company, National Buses is meeting 48% of the plan (and covers only 43% of interprovincial routes compared to 2019); Transmetre, is at 50%, and Escolares, is at 53%. The Turquino Plan, which connects the mountainous and inaccessible areas of the Island, has 110 of its 198 routes not in service, which is more worrying.

The railway is not going well either, and this is nothing new, since cars are missing and the infrastructure is not in good condition, which reduces capacity. According to the data, locomotives — the few there are — could carry 12 or 13 cars but must take only 11.

By sea, there are more problems. Perseverance, a modern ferry acquired for millions from an undisclosed Asian country arrived on the Island in the midst of great expectation this July. But it still cannot operate because the dredging of the port of Batabanó has not been completed.

By air, although the drop in flights has been evident, signs of recovery are seen, the authorities added.

Another fact that they highlighted as striking is the fall in transport licenses for private individuals, who move 30% of passengers. A quarter of these have suspended or cancelled their permits, something that is no surprise other than to the authorities, who seem unconcerned about the drivers’ complaints. They are tired of state price limitations, which are impossible to sustain, together with the increase in the cost of fuel and the price of parts needed to maintain their vehicles.

“Many charge high prices with the aim of meeting expenses. At the end of September, these forms of transport had only transported 44% of what was planned,” the report says.

“One of the most complex issues facing the population is prices. It is true that private carriers have to buy dollars in the informal market to acquire parts and pieces, but nothing justifies that they want to have up to three times the profits with their activity,” said the prime minister.

The Economic Affairs Committee, despite its importance, offered little data of interest, although there were many words from the Cuban president, Miguel Díaz-Canel, who used the usual recipe of voluntarism** for next year. “The plan is a goal that requires effort to be fulfilled,” he said.

He also resorted to referring to the US sanctions and the international crisis that worsen, in his opinion, the country’s problems, but added that “with creative resistance we will win,” and that this is “a path that involves sacrifices.” Nothing new here.

Perhaps the biggest surprise was that generated by his words regarding inflation. According to the president, “although things are expensive there is a group that can buy them; hence the high prices continue to be maintained. How is this resolved? Producing more, but currency is needed,” he said, to support his statement about the excess liquidity that, in his opinion, exists on the Island.

Díaz-Canel also stressed the energy problems, which any country, he said, would “solve with shock measures” (that is, increasing prices, as he insinuated, ignoring measures such as European consumer protection measures to try to contain the increase), while in Cuba, each megawatt costs one million dollars, and that amount “is not generated by the Electric Union nor is it financed by the rates fixed for the population sector,” he recalled.

The parliamentary committee brought to light other worrying issues, such as the lack of food production. The goal for the new year in terms of the sugar harvest is to produce 455,200 tons, 90,000 of them for export (the contract with China was originally for 400,000 tons), but the yield is very low, according to the data presented: an alarming 7.9% of the goal.

The deputies gathered there took the floor to allude to issues that concern everyone but which will not be solved without a real will for change. Among them were the rise in prices in the state sector, the impossibility of acquiring more and more products in a place other than foreign exchange stores, the high losses of many state companies without consequences for them, and the catastrophic situation of the thermoelectric plants — despite the vaunted capital repair of the rebel Guiteras plant, which doesn’t work for a week in a row — while resources are allocated to other matters.

The deputy for Cienfuegos, Dinorah Navarro, admitted that there is dissatisfaction among the workers of the thermoelectric plants and alluded to the investments made in tourism, with an ambiguous statement: “We do nothing and continue to build hotels while the  thermoelectric plants remain in these conditions.”

Translator’s notes:

*To put these numbers in context, Cuba’s population is approximately 11.3 million. If each person took one transit trip a day, every day, for the entire year, it would total just over 4.124 billion annual trips.

**”Voluntarism” means individual effort.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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