Dr.C Juan Triana Cordoví

Dr.C Juan Triana Cordoví

Closer to the horizon

Closer to the horizon

Although it seemed that the list of activities not allowed as a modality of self-employment in Cuba looked faraway like the horizon, today we can practically reach it with our fingertips. In short, when the regulations in this regard are published, it will be known how much the Cuban business fabric can be diversified and effectively enriched under current conditions. The history of self-employment has been with us since the late 1970s, when the first resolution that allowed such activity was issued as part of the “rectification of errors” announced in the Programmatic Platform of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC). This document was the foundation that anticipated the first of all the PCC congresses. This story has been told over and over again for decades, especially since the 1990s, from multiple perspectives,1 with greater or lesser depth, from quite different and sometimes irreconcilable political and ideological positions: from the almost absolute naivety of understanding the event as “the solution” to the country’s problems to the one that has identified it as part of the problems and dangers, and even as the confirmation of the distancing of official policy from the essential foundations of the Revolution. The U.S. administrations, especially...

Multiply or divide…

Multiply or divide…

The devaluation of the official exchange rate of the Cuban peso against the dollar, the wage reform and the administration of the management of the prices of some goods and services have become a combination that doesn’t always produce the desired effect. At least, so far in this process of structural adjustment of the national economy called reorganization task. We know from the macroeconomics and microeconomics books that any devaluation must generate positive incentives for the efficiency of the system as a whole; on labor productivity and on exports. It should lead to improvements in all three, though not in the short term. We also know from the macro and micro books that any devaluation produces a short-term effect on prices and generally pushes them up. This effect, in economies where there is an adequate dynamic of substitution of production factors (capital, labor, land and know-how) and where the supply is sufficiently elastic and varied, should serve as a containment of the expected short-term “price-effect” term. In universal economic thought, Alfred Marshall and Leon Walras defended different points of view on the role of quantities and prices in this necessary adjustment process. It is also true that those analyzes were...

Aftershocks of the earthquake

Aftershocks of the earthquake

If anyone ever doubted the telluric nature of the exchange rate and monetary unification, this week, the first after the famous Day Zero, has been enough to show how intense the earthquake is and will continue to be. If the aspiration is to produce the effects that a devaluation should produce in the real economy, well then, it will be necessary to prepare for the many aftershocks that have yet to appear and that will necessarily occur. What is happening today in the economy and society, and even the way in which people begin to perceive the advantages and disadvantages of the happiness of living with a single currency, affects the pocket, the stomach and the mind. And they do so with a depth never seen before. The “intensity of the earthquake” is associated with many factors, but there is one that should be highlighted. Currency distortions are not the product that dollarization was adopted one day, back in the 1990s. They come from further back, since our country kept the exchange rate of the CUP with the US dollar unchanged, something that happened in the early sixties. They also go back to the fact that the tax system was...

Cuban economy in 2021: beyond the numbers

Cuban economy in 2021: beyond the numbers

Four days ago, during the sixth regular session of the National Assembly of People’s Power, in its ninth legislature, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy and Planning Alejandro Gil Fernández reported that the GDP had decreased by 11% in 2020 and that a growth of 7% was proposed in the plan for 2021. Reaching this goal would seem like a not so difficult task from a mathematical perspective (the comparison base is very low) but that is only pure appearance, especially if it is taken into account that the reasons why it decreased in 2020 will not disappear, as least for a great deal of next year, even if at some point the virus vaccines will do their job. The others, the structural ones, which have determined that the growth rate in recent years barely reached 1.6%, remain, some have even deepened and have made our reality even more complex, much has been said about both, although it is never too much. *Caption:  GDP performance Annual rate Ave. Ave. Gov goal Trying to grow in the short term and at the same time advance in a strategy approved more than four years ago and that, if we take into...

The Island of Treasures

The Island of Treasures

I came to the Isla de la Juventud for the first time on a plane, with my mother. We were picked up in an olive green “jeep” and taken to the Vanguardia de la Habana Secondary School in the Countryside. At that time, it was common for a junior high school in the countryside to have one hundred percent promotion. We were going to see my father, who at the time was the deputy director of the Vanguardia de La Havana and who had not come to the capital for a while for work reasons. For me, it was fantastic to arrive at Isla de Pinos, later baptized as Isla de la Juventud, for several years worthy of being Isla de los Cítricos (citrus fruit), and always Isla del Tesoro. I got there thinking of that last name. Much later I learned that the Isla de la Juventud was not actually Isla del Tesoro, but the Isle of Many Treasures. Nueva Gerona, Isla de la Juventud. Colonized by the Spanish, recolonized by the Americans from 1898 to 1925, recovered by Cuba, a territory of Caymanian and Japanese emigrants and also many Cubans from so many parts...

Strategy and development

Strategy and development

Eleven principles, sixteen key areas and more than 370 measures is, without a doubt, an enormous effort in favor of the purpose of “preparing an Economic and Social Development Strategy, where it is ratified that we cannot continue doing things the same way.” The process of drawing up this group of measures has been one of the most expeditious we have seen. “On May 10, the Prime Minister’s instructions were issued to all the agencies, thus working on the design of the measures... on July 14, the Strategy was presented to the Political Bureau; on July 16, it was approved by the Council of Ministers and, that same day, our people were informed in a general way about its scope and content in the Mesa Redonda television program. Later, a tabloid with the information was published.” The Minister of the Economy recalled this while rendering accounts in the recently concluded session of the National Assembly. The reasons for the urgency are well known. On the one hand, the delay in putting into practice a group of measures approved several years earlier in the governing documents for the transformation of the national economy and its impact on the country’s economic development,...

Foreign Direct Investment and organization

Foreign Direct Investment and organization

The past week has been one of the most interesting in recent times, for everyone, but especially for economists. The explanation offered  about the “organization” task by the head of the Implementation Commission and the subsequent clarification of doubts and comments on the subject, was, in my opinion, one of the best public explanations I have heard, not only to understand the complexity of the task at hand of the present government, but also on how the national economy has functioned and functions, or rather, how much distortion of all kinds and institutional failures exist today in the functioning of the national economy. After listening to both programs, it is possible to express with amazement, rather than with certainty, eppur si muove. It is also true that if we don’t carry out this task, if it isn’t done correctly, or if we continue to delay it indefinitely―with the risks that this implies and with the restrictions we have today―, that even erratic movement of our economy can take us anywhere, except where we want. It is also true that despite the effort to foresee everything, or almost everything, because the economy implies communicating vessels, because it has a direct social...

The food we need

The food we need

The production, distribution, marketing and sale of agricultural products monopolizes the attention of almost everyone in our country. Of course it is, it takes up a great deal of our day, of our mind and it also empties a good part of the pocket Consequently, in recent weeks several documents on this problem have been made public. They, with their differences, contribute to the understanding and possible solutions of this matter that has accompanied us for so many decades. Since July, the Council of Minister approved the National Plan for Food Sovereignty and Nutritional Security, one of its priority objectives being: “to facilitate the organization of local, sovereign and sustainable food systems that integrate the production, transformation, marketing and consumption of food and which must produce decisive synergies with territorial development strategies,” something, without a doubt, strategic for our country. A recent feature article highlighted the deep crisis in our livestock sector and the alarming number of dead cattle in these first months of the year. Too much food wasted. Animal food is one of our great weaknesses. In Cuba there is a whole debate on how to guarantee animal feed, which agrees that importing cannot continue to be the...

Our other war

Our other war

A good friend sent me a few weeks ago a speech that has circulated mainly on social networks and is attributed to the President of Uganda, on the meaning of COVID-19. It is perhaps, as she told me, the most instructive of all the ones I’ve read. In one of its parts he states: “The world is at war.… A war without guns and bullets, a war without human soldiers. A war without borders.” Without a doubt, he is right. What I learned by reading and watching many war films, especially World War II and specifically the Great Patriotic War, the one that the Soviets won against German fascism and that today many interpretations intend to forget or relegate to the background is that the vanguard, being decisive, can only be truly successful if it has a powerful rearguard. Those great tank battles, where the Red Army literally crushed German armored divisions, were only possible because the rearguard produced the steel, the bronze, the engines, and finally the tanks. Without a powerful rearguard, it would have been very difficult for the Red Army to take Berlin. Cuba is also waging this new war. It does so every day and every...

And then there’s cheese

And then there’s cheese

For many years, when you left Havana and headed west or east, or when you came back from the west or east, it was very rare that at some point during that journey you didn’t run into “clandestine” vendors of “illegal cheese,” who half hidden by the roadside would check that the coast was clear of any car of the Cuban highway patrol and then they would quickly show and offer their product: fresh, rich, really tasty white cheese made from cow’s milk. I don’t know how many travelers in these last 30 years, along those roads, have resisted buying white cheese, the kind that was only possible to get in those places because in our official market, either in the still known today as grocery stores or later in the stores in foreign currency, then stores in CUC and now in both foreign currency and in CUC, it was practically impossible to find fresh white cheese. Or what is the same, the national state industry was never able to meet the demand for white cheese in the country, nor the demand for other types and qualities of cheese. It was and is illegal to produce cheese for sale outside...

Of empty stands and trucks that don’t come in

Of empty stands and trucks that don’t come in

The images of the agricultural market in my town, Santiago de las Vegas, this Sunday, August 23, 2020 have nothing to do with those of just a year ago, when all the stands were in use and the variety of products, despite being summer, made it possible (as long as you had money) to leave more or less satisfied, although with a black hole in your pocket. My town is one of those peripheral municipalities of the province. It is located to the southwest of the bay and is like a bridge with the other two neighboring provinces, Mayabeque and Artemisa. Watch out, geography matters. In fact, part of the lands of my town and my municipality are among the most fertile in the country and have the privilege of an underground water reserve like few other territories in Cuba. Good land (of the best), water, and a special microclimate that in its time allowed it to have even strawberry crops. Added to this is the advantage of having one of the only two agricultural research institutions that Cuba had before 1959, the Agronomic Experimental Station of Santiago de las Vegas (today INIFAT), founded by Cuban scholar Juan Tomás Roig...

Exports, once again

Exports, once again

Help us keep OnCuba alive There is much good news despite COVID-19 and the return of the capital to the epidemic phase. Almost every day we are surprised by a new measure to boost/recover/revitalize our economy. That good news is in the form of a group of long-awaited measures. It’s good, without a doubt, to note that this time it seems the boost being given to our reform/update, or however you want to describe this process that we have been dealing with in the last ten years, is not going to stop. But beware: the order in the sequence is important. https://oncubanews.com/en/cuba/cuba-accelerates-economic-reforms/ Although I will basically deal with exports again and I think I’ve done it in this column more than four or five times, I would like to point out that after the TV appearance of the minister of labor announcing that at last, and thanks in part to COVID-19, it has been decided to eliminate the positive list that authorizes a little more than a hundred trades that can be exercised by the self-employed and to create a negative list of jobs that cannot be exercised, and at the same time put an end to the “experiment” character...

Should Cuba promote introduction of genetically modified organisms in agriculture?

Should Cuba promote introduction of genetically modified organisms in agriculture?

Help us keep OnCuba alive A few days ago, the national press published the news of the approval in Cuba of the regulations to carry out the work associated with genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and their use in the production of food in agriculture. Undoubtedly, having standards to regulate the investigation and use of these organisms is healthy for the present and the future of our country. According to the World Health Organization “genetically modified (GM) foods are foods derived from organisms whose genetic material (DNA) has been modified in a way that doesn’t occur naturally, e.g. through the introduction of a gene from a different organism. The technology is often called ‘modern biotechnology’ or ‘gene technology,’ sometimes also ‘recombinant DNA technology’ or ‘genetic engineering.’” It allows the outcrossing of selected individual genes from one organism to another, also between unrelated species. Foods produced based on GM organisms or used are often called GM foods. Cuban scientists Fernando R. Funes-Monzote and Eduardo Freyre Roach in their book “Transgénicos, ¿qué se pierde? ¿qué se gana?” define it like this: A GMO is an organism whose genetic information has been manipulated in laboratories, in a deliberate way, in order to confer one...

Distribute the cake differently

Distribute the cake differently

Help us keep OnCuba alive Agriculture is today one of the activities that attracts the attention of Cubans. In the media, on the networks, on the agendas of almost all meetings of local governments and other institutions, the “food-producing sector” is always present. I believe that never before has so much been written and published on the agricultural sector, dozens of articles and hundreds of pages of comments, reports on “successful cases” and strategies implemented, on future plans and, logically, on all the difficulties facing the sector, associated with financial restrictions and the damage the U.S. blockade causes to food production in the country. There is not enough time to read it all. Magnificent press reports, informative scientific articles, many of them very well informed, in official media or not, which even contain proposals on “what to do.” They range from problems associated with the standards and regulations that “weigh” on the sector, problems associated with research, development and innovation (R+D+I) and their implementation, to proposals on how to improve quality and quantity of what is produced and the forms of marketing, the role of local production and marketing, the role of the different “means of production” and the importance...

Under the tip of the iceberg

Under the tip of the iceberg

Help us keep OnCuba alive The death throes of El trigal concentrating market were also the labor pains of the relaunch of the state enterprise Acopio collection center, a kind of phoenix that has been the recurring attempt of solution by the MINAGRI (Ministry of Agriculture), or of who directs agriculture in Cuba, of the marketing problems (contracting, processing and distribution) of agricultural products since my friend Goyo and I, a long time ago, used to “steal mangoes” in Morejon’s farm, famous at that time in my town. We did it less to eat and much more for the adventure. Collecting has been with us for good or for bad since that remote time. I start from the supposition that all the Acopio workers are good people, aware of their work and imbued with its social value and I make it extensive to each and every worker in agriculture, including the Ministry. It isn’t a problem of women and men, even if it involves them. It is a problem of concepts. Acopio has been the formula, the mechanism, the organization that MINAGRI and decision-makers have created to “guarantee,” among other things, control over production and producers, over distribution and consumers...

Combo vs. consumers

Combo vs. consumers

Help us keep OnCuba alive here For many years, Cubans who live on the island have almost forgotten that at one or several times of the day, we metamorphose and become “customers.” By definition, a customer is a person who regularly uses the services of a professional or an enterprise or who, also with some regularity, buys some good in a commercial establishment, be it public or private. The service or the goods purchased are paid for. It is generally assumed that this act is voluntary, whoever decides to buy the good or service does so voluntarily. There is a certain degree of “freedom of choice,” although in reality it is not as free as it may seem. In our country, the word “customer” disappeared from common jargon for a long time, customers were turned into “users,” that is, people who use a device or object or who use a particular service. My whole family, including myself, although at that time I was a child, we were customers of Reinaldo, the grocer on the corner. Like mine, many other families in the neighborhood. But at some point in history, we stopped being customers and became “users” of the service that...

My kingdom for a sweet potato

My kingdom for a sweet potato

An old formula is known in Cuba: Goat milk and sweet potato! A humble recipe for food for the poor, from the time of grandparents. Cornmeal with sweet potato was the dish of any of the poorest families in Cuba, although, at least for my taste, it is a dish of the gods, especially if we put a couple of fried eggs on it. Eggs! Fried! Sweet potato is one of the five main dishes of the Cuban diet. It is also the humblest of all. Sweet potatoes always knew they were very far from the inaccessible potato while the always wanted and sometimes little found taro appears as the most aristocratic of all, with scary prices. For its part, cassava has always been the preferred and most demanded in our celebrations, especially for that grace of accompanying so, but so well, the now disappeared national mammal (the pig). The green plantain, on the other hand, always ready for chips and which, turned into chatinos, goes wonderfully with a good steak of the meat from “the unmentionable.” Sweet potatoes, however, have remained there, unperturbed on their platform, knowing they are a last resort, seeing that their price has always been...

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