‘Radical’ reforms at last in Cuba
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 18/09/2010 (4635 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Officially, the unemployment rate today in the workers’ paradise of Cuba stands at 1.7 per cent. That is a remarkable figure and one that any western capitalist government might envy. Or at least it would be enviable if it bore any relationship to reality, which it does not.
It does not include thousands of sugar industry workers who were laid off but paid retraining wages for years because there were no jobs available to them. Neither does it include about one million government workers who collect salaries but have neither real work nor real jobs, nor the uncounted thousands who are illegally self-employed and don’t show up in the statistics.
Soon, however, by the end of March 2011, according to President Raul Castro, it will include 500,000 government workers who are to be officially laid off and cast out to survive in the country’s minuscule private sector — 85 per cent of Cubans work for the state.
The economic reforms announced by Mr. Castro this week do not go very far, but they are the most radical that he has proposed since taking over from his more famous brother, Fidel, in 2008. And taken together with some extraordinary comments attributed to Fidel Castro himself in a recent interview, they may indicate that a long overdue coming to grips with economic reality may finally take hold in Cuba.
Fidel Castro nationalized almost every single business in 1968, from major corporations to street-corner food stands. His brother plans to open up the economy, he says, at least to the point that it can absorb some of the excess government workforce.
Fidel may or may not acknowledge now that he led Cuba down a wrong route after the revolution. In a bizarre interview he told the Atlantic Monthly that “the Cuban model doesn’t even work for us anymore,” something that Raul Castro may be coming to believe, but which Fidel himself finds harder to let go. The former “Maximum Leader” has since said that the interviewer missed the “irony” inherent in his comments and that “the capitalist system no longer works” for anyone.
He was also misunderstood, he says, when he admitted to taking the wrong course of action during the Cuban missile crisis. None of his denials, however, are spoken with the kind of conviction one would expect from a healthy Fidel. Rather, they are like the meanderings of an old and failing man who still wields considerable influence.
It is to Raul Castro that the world must look now to see how strong that influence is as the younger brother stumbles towards reform through the mess that the Maximum Leader left behind.