Monday, January 21, 2013

When the lens is on Cuba...

Morning mist over Vinales Valley.
Omar Perez Salomon[i] brings us information about Cuban economy as it compares to 2011 directly from President Raul Castro’ speech at the closing of the National Assembly of Cuban Popular Power on December 13, 2012. The theme for this past year has been the need to potentiate the development of Cuban production through increased efficiency and more rational approaches. This perspective was adopted as the best way to make sustainable for Cuba the provision of social services free of charge to all its citizens. For those who do not believe this possible, we have news, it is working!

 Although such news, how a focus on the local economy and development can in fact improve the lives of people, should be important international news --particularly in times of crisis of the Global Frankenstein Project, information about Cuba is not easy to find. Perez Salomon points to the argument that in the past Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano raised, that when Cuba is the topic most media use a magnifying lens focusing on anything negative and distracting from any positive advance. It is a fairly true statement, Cuban advances are rarely the focus of international media attention; thus, it becomes particularly important for us to provide information about the advances Cuba continues to make in favour of its people.

 And yet, it seems it is more than just “ignore Cuba” like always this time, it may even be beyond Cuba and the US. Just imagine that a little Caribbean country could be showing the way to a new way of living in the world: local living. And doing it at a time when the monster idea “global village on steroids” is collapsing, or on its way to collapse, before our very eyes. Then, the reasons to ignore Cuba become even more important: ignore Cuba and all those who are trying to make it work locally, those who already realize that the global village on steroids is unsustainable -nature cannot bear it, undesirable -it does not ensure better living for people but just the opposite, and it is on its way to extinction, eating itself up, poisoning itself and us, as gone as the Dodo bird but still jumping up and down fully armed as those ghost whose sins do not allow them to go to the light –and are not ready to go to the darkness, leaving us in peace and once and for all. End of the movie.

 Therefore, it becomes particularly important to notice that in spite of the systematic increase of the international prices of food and other basic items, in spite of the global crisis and the chronic crisis of capitalism throughout the world, in spite of the increasing blockade of Cuba by the US, Cuba has shown positive, encouraging signs. And here is the list of some of those signs:
  • Surprisingly, for a world with falling GDPs, at the closing of 2012 Cuban economy has increased its GDP 3.1%. Work Productivity has also increased (2.1%) and the Cuban state budget deficit is surprisingly low, a 3.8% of their GDP calculated at today’s prices.
  • Cuba continues to be a very attractive and safe place for tourists and Tourism reached 2.874.000 visitors in 2012–a growth of 4.9% with respect to 2011.
  • Gross income in Cuba reached 2 000 million dollars.
  • Cuba shows economic growth when compared to 2011: Agriculture grew 2%, Manufacturing grew 4.4%, Transport and Communications grew 5%, Commerce grew 5.9% and Sugar production grew more than 20%.
  • Cuba produced more than 4.000.000 tons of oil and gas in 2012 –supplying about 40% of the oil required by the country and almost the entire gas required for their power plants and domestic consumption.
  • In a world besieged by two digits unemployment rates, Cuba’s current unemployment level is 3.8%. Furthermore, new policies approved are expected to increase the effectiveness of cooperative agricultural centers so better performance in this area is expected for 2013.
Government plans for 2013:
  • An estimated growth of 3.7% in the GDP is expected, a 4.5% expected growth in Agriculture and a 4.7% expected growth in Manufacturing are highlighted as very positive advances by Cubans.
  • Total capital to be invested by the estate in 2013 will be 7 756 million Cuban pesos, already a 34% increased respect of 2012, government plans to destined 79% of this amount to productive areas.
  • Electricity available to the country is expected to increase 2%. Number of tourists visiting Cuba is expected to reach 3.2 million –an increase of 8.6% respect of 2012. Productivity is expected to increase 2.6%. Number of workers in the private sector is expected to increase 1%. Productive efficiency is expected to increase 2.2%. Furthermore, the contributions by Self Employed Cubans and those working under the new legislation are also expected to grow in a 14% in 2013.

  • Expenses will reach 50 000 million Cuban pesos, a growth of 1.6% compared to  2012 –of those, more than 32 000 million Cuban pesos will subsidize families with low income through home building and repair and measures warranting levels of needed support and activities in the social sector. Government will continue subsidizing the “Canasta Familiar Normada” (food family basket) in 2013 with close to 3 000 million Cuban pesos; and, Social Security will receive more than 5 000 million Cuban pesos which will benefit close to 2 million Cubans.

  • Monies in the amount of 532 million Cuban pesos will go to a Development Fund –backing government decisions to favour the productive sector and services. In 2013, 230 new cooperatives in non-agricultural sectors will start working. From January 2013 experiments towards increasing autonomy and capacity in the economic and financial management of more than 100 Cuban firms will be implemented.

  • Cuba continues to be very concerned about Cuban children, their health and their education and Cuba continues helping with international health efforts. Infant mortality in Cuba continues to be below 5 for 1000 infants born alive and life expectancy is 78 years. Cuban budget ensures school education to 1.864.100 students –preschool, elementary and secondary levels and of 233 300 at university level. The budget includes also 152 hospitals, 452 poly-clinics y 11 504 medical clinics. More than 40 thousand Cuban health workers are involved in health missions around the world, working in more than 70 countries.

  • In social development Cuban celebrated the second anniversary of EcuRed in December 14, 2012. EcuRed is Cuban first social network carrying more than 100 000 encyclopaedic articles and with more than 90 thousand visitors daily.

  • Internationally, Cuba continues to receive much support and in November 2012 188 countries at the UN General Assembly condemned the Cuban blockade (188 paĆ­ses condenaron el bloqueo) imposed by the USA.

  • Furthermore, Cuba continues to perform well in international competitions and indexes. Cuba obtained place number 15th in the Olympic Games in London, with 14 medals. And, most importantly, Cuba occupies the 51st post among in the world in human development by the UN report on Human Development –it is a high human development place for a country blockaded by the most powerful country in the world. Cuba is proud of it.  
Cuba continues to travel a not very traveled road and this maybe just making all the difference. Others are starting to realize that following their own paths, honoring their own ways and histories may be particularly important when imposed, questionable models start to show their cracks and falling to pieces…

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood…
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference

 From: The road not Taken, by Robert Frost

Nora Fernandez