Cuban and Caribbean Studies Institute

Tulane University

Paolo Spadoni on Cuba's Socialist Economy Today

On March 28, 2014, Paolo Spadoni, former post-doctoral fellow at CIPR (2008-09) and current assistant professor of political science at Georgia Regent University, discussed his upcoming book Cuba’s Socialist Economy Today: Navigating Challenges and Change, to be published by Lynne Rienner in May 2014.

Spadoni’s new book analyzes the Cuban economy in depth with an emphasis on the macroeconomic environment but also by sector, exploring the new reforms implemented by Raul Castro since he took over from Fidel in 2008.

The most important economic problems facing Cuba are large fiscal and merchandise deficits, growing foreign debt, sagging productivity and efficiency, stagnant real wages and pensions, and the dual monetary system. Cuba’s economic driver has been the service sector, with rising exports of professional services and an increase in tourism revenues. Yet productivity in all major sectors remains low and the country continues to be heavily dependent on food and oil imports.

Spadoni estimates that approximately 80% of consumer goods are imported, most importantly food and oil. With deeper agricultural reforms, including land redistribution and cultivation, Cuba could successfully increase domestic production for many of these goods and lessen its import dependence.

The labor market is also experiencing changes as government jobs are insufficient to keep the population fully employed. Raul Castro’s desire to layoff 1.2 million state employees to increase efficiency and decrease corruption has remained short of the mark as job creation is lagging. A more successful job creation program could allow Cuba to avoid the flight of highly skilled professionals to service sectors in which they can earn hard currency but where their technical knowledge is underutilized.

Spadoni noted that salaries and pensions are currently one quarter and one half, respectively, of what they were in 1989. This has forced Cubans to turn to remittances from abroad, tips from tourism and hospitality, and black market activities to satisfy their needs. He noted that it would be impossible for the state to decrease the rationing system or change the current dual monetary system until state enterprises produce more, raising the real wages to a point where Cubans can subsist on their salaries.

Spadoni commended Raul Castro’s stance on corruption and the embargo. Castro has acknowledged that corruption has created many of the problems Cuba is currently facing, and he is encouraging Cubans to stop blaming the embargo for the country`s failures. Instead, he has started looking for internal solutions. His reforms are well conceived, but they do not go deep enough. Priority should be on job creation and productivity increases, as well as full realization of property rights for cooperatives and new entrepreneurial initiatives.

Paolo Spadoni is also the author of Failed Sanctions: Why the U.S. Embargo against Cuba Could Never Work (University Press of Florida, 2010).

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Latin American Graduate Oraganization (LAGO) 2018 Conference: Call for Proposals

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The Latin American Graduate Organization will be hosting its 2018 Latin American Studies Conference titled Thinking of the Future: Expanding the possible in the Americas (Pensando en el porvenir: Expandiendo lo posible en las Américas) February 23 – 25, 2018, at Tulane University, in New Orleans, Louisiana.

This year, the conference topic is meant to challenge academics and activists to move beyond critiques and recommendations of how to address modern days issues, and instead articulate a vision of and for the future.

The LAGO Conference welcomes all disciplines and all approaches, as long as the project attempts to grapple with the idea of building something better. This is a Latin American Studies Conference, but creative writers, journalists, artists, performers, organizers, lawyers and healthcare providers as well as graduate students and other academics are welcome. Proposals are accepted in Spanish, Portuguese, Haitian Creole, and English.

Deadlines: Abstracts of papers and projects are due November 25, 2017. Abstracts of papers or project descriptions must not exceed 300 words.

Please contact lago.tulane@gmail.com with questions. For more information, visit the official conference website.