The Cuban government is stepping up the economic policy changes, though with all the Asian gradualness it has adopted because of external influence or its own cautiousness. A recent meeting of the Council of Ministers confirmed advances in the opening to foreign investments, along with the reorganisation of the business system, among other adjustments. Independently of the speed, the transformations are a fact. Even U.S. politicians and one of the most influential media in that country have grasped this.
The New York Times published last weekend a third editorial against the U.S. policy of economic embargo against the socialist neighbour. Faithful, however, to calling it embargo, the daily mentions opinions of the high political spheres of Washington that call that policy a failure.
The article questions the U.S. foreign policy dependence on the interests of “a small but passionate group of Cuban-American lawmakers” whose motivation it defines as “deeply personal”. In conclusion, the daily demands that the feelings of that faction “should not continue to anchor American policy on a failed course that has strained Washington’s relationship with allies in the hemisphere, prevented robust trade with the island and offered the Cuban government a justification for its failures.”
On Monday Oct. 27, Granma, the official organ of the Communist Party of Cuba, published entirely the editorial of the U.S. daily, without adding nuances or its own interpretations, as on previous occasions.
The following day the United Nations General Assembly confirmed the perception of The New York Times: it voted massively – only two countries against: the United States and Israel – in favour of a resolution presented by Havana under the title of “Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States of America against Cuba”. The world has being so year after year since 1992.
The growing frustration of U.S. politicians in the face of the inefficiency of their anti-Cuba positions is finding breeding ground in the faithfulness of the Raúl Castro government to the road of transformations it undertook under the banner of Updating of the economic model.
In a meeting held last Oct. 24 the Cuban government confirmed the priority it gives to doing business with entrepreneurs from other countries. The Council of Ministers approved the novel Investment Opportunities Portfolio, which contains 246 projects with foreign capital amounting to 8.7 billion dollars. Its presentation will be the main course of the Havana International Trade Fair (FIHAV 2014), to be held Nov. 2-8.
When presenting the Portfolio to the other members of the Council of Ministers, government Vive President Marino Murillo said that it “constitutes an essential aspect in the process of attracting foreign capital.”
The first figures that the authorities have proposed are not insignificant. Cuba would start mending the severe drop of the gross capital formation rate or investment rate, which reached 6.846 billion dollars in 2013, 8.9 per cent of the GDP, according to the National Office of Statistics and Information (ONEI). That data is way below the regional average, of 22.9 per cent of the GDP, according to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).
In view of the persistent and successive Cuban opening steps for foreign investment, U.S. business people’s concern is growing in the face of the ground being gained by other countries’ rivals in the Caribbean nation. This has been confirmed by visits to Cuba like the one made this year by the chairman of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Thomas Donohue.
The third editorial of The New York Times, meanwhile, affirmed that “the political backlash Mr. Obama would face by taking steps to normalise relations (with Cuba) is likely to be manageable, even in the Cuban-American community, and well worth the opportunities there would be for expansion in trade, communications and relationships between Americans and ordinary Cubans.”
The Council of Ministers meeting also reviewed other matters of prime importance for the economy, linked to the reorganisation of the business system. In that direction, it approved an Integral Policy for Industrial Property and new proposals linked to the functions and powers of the Grass-Roots Business Units. It advanced in the explicit purpose of separating and delimiting the state and business functions, the rules of the game for the cooperative forms in the agricultural sphere and the checking up on the irregularities affecting Cuba’s foreign trade.
Among the latter problems, Foreign Trade and Investment Minister Rodrigo Malmierca cited a bad selection of suppliers, dilated contracting processes and the wrong manipulation and transport of merchandise. Though he noted a decrease in expenditures for the demurrage of ships and containers, Malmierca recognised “delays in exports as a consequence of deficiencies in the planning and operations of domestic transport.”
The Council of Ministers went back to the always controversial issue of the demographic dynamic, in a country where population aging responds to “low fertility levels, the increase in life expectancy and immigration abroad,” according to Murillo, and creates concern from the point of view of the labour force available in the future.
The numerous sensitive matters placed on the table of the ministers ratifies the country’s entering a stage of more complex transformations and, therefore, of greater tensions. Though they still are not translating into substantial benefits for the population or into reactions of an economic slowdown and almost standstill, it is sending a sign of serious disposition for far-reaching changes, a detail that does not escape foreign eyes and especially from the North. (2014)
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