Friday, March 14, 2008

Good news from Cuba

It looks like there is to be some liberalisation of the Cuban economy - and for once the word liberalisation shouldn't be taken to mean neoliberalism, red in tooth and claw, but genuine moves to bring about more equality for the population.

The moves are to allow ordinary Cubans access to consumer goods that had previously been barred to them. It's also possible that Cubans may be allowed to stay in hotels currently only available for foreigners. As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago the dual currency (which was a triple currency until reasonably recently) is a source of discontent because it essentially amounts to an economic apartheid. It seems that Raúl Castro's regime is willing to either re-evaluate the value of the two currencies or, in the long term, possibly even abolish the restrictions. This would be very welcome to many of Cuba's poor.

One area where the government has indicated it will open up the economy is access to the Internet. At the moment Cuba has around a 2% penetration of Internet usage. Over the last seven years it has one of the lowest Internet growth rates in the region only outperforming Nicaragua, Uruguay and Peru - and Cuba is far outstripped by countries which are, formally, poorer like the Dominican Republic, Paraguay and Honduras.

There is no economic justification for this, purely a political desire to restrict access to so called luxury goods (like toasters) and modern communications. We can go into arguments about the necessity to defend the regime from hostile forces - of which there are many - but this does not negate the fact that being a citizen in Cuba is very different depending on your class position inside of that society.

These moves could, possibly, lead to a significant increase in the living standards of those on the bottom rungs of Cuban society and have to be welcomed. There is nothing contained within them that necessitates the privatisation of public services or discarding that which is good about Cuban society.

I'm not hear to praise the regime in toto nor give succour to its enemies, after all Castro was never the monster the White House made him out to be, but when seven, count them seven, members of the Cuban football team defected on Thursday it is a real sign that there is room for improvement in Cuba.

1 comment:

blackstone said...

At first i thought, "Who cares about some Cuban football players". Then i realized us Americans are the only ones who don't call football soccer, ahhhh!

But this is good news for cuban people. I'm all for a diverse economy. One of the values i think an economy should have.