14ymedio, Havana, November 4, 2021 — Marino Murillo, the man behind the government’s currency unification reforms, had warned last February that 426 state-owned businesses could close this year due to financial losses. As of September the actual number of entities operating in the red was even higher: 541, or 30% of the Cuban business network, according to the official newspaper Invasor.
Murillo, whom the foreign press has dubbed Cuba’s “reform czar,” made his prediction during an appearance at the Ceballos de Ciego de Avila Agro-Industrial Company. Considered one of the state’s economic crown jewels, the company was already reporting negative numbers last January when, with no profits, it employed 5,000 minimum-wage workers.
Eight months later, another twenty-two of the province’s state-owned businesses were spending more than they earned, a total loss of 438,000,000 pesos (about $18,000,000). Among them were La Cuba, Ruta Invasora, Acopio, Carnico, Farmacias y Opticas, Integral Agropecuaria, Pesquera Industrial and Biopower S.A.
At the end of October, the head of Economy and Planning, Alejandro Gil, acknowledged that, between 2020 and 2021, the Cuban economy took “a really hard hit,” with losses amounting to 13% of GDP.
At the time, Gil described the challenge of food production as “very complex.” He acknowledged production targets had not been met in almost every category, specifically citing rice, corn, beans and milk, which was 63 million liters less that had been expected.
In Ciego de Avila, Empresa Porcina (Pork Company) reported losses approaching 74,000,000 pesos, which company director Yandira Sanchez blamed on low pork production. The company was already having problems back in 2020, when it owed more than 6,800 tons of feed — a combination of cassava, sweet potato and taro — to breeders.
Evidence of the pork shortage can be seen at food markets and on restaurant menus. Cubans are now being offered croquettes, ground meat and hamburgers made from flour and vegetable protein.
The poor results have led to questions about Cuba’s abrupt transition from its dual currency system in January. By June, 488 businesses were reporting losses, a figure higher than what had been foreseen as a result of the reforms.
“Currency unification has not fulfilled its promises. Long lines and [black market] resellers are everywhere. There was only one lone security guard at the Eklo grocery store in Playa. Where’s the state comptroller? Nowhere to be seen. Nothing’s changed, same old story,” commented one person on the impact of currency unification in a post on Cubadebate On October 18.
Volodia, a public-sector worker, said, “The only thing this policy has done is pass the government’s economic mistakes on to the little guy. Now he’s the one who has deal with the consequences.”
Another such case is Lacteo, which did not meet its targets in September and reported a loss of almost 8,000,000 pesos. Its production of cheese fell short by 200 tons, ice cream by 150 gallons and butter by 20 tons. Production was affected by the government’s failure to pay producers in hard currency.
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