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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Online Latinx Speaker Series

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This speaker series was developed by Professor Caballero as part of her class, Introduction to Latinx Studies. It is designed to share the diversity and contributions of the local New Orleans Latinx community. Each speaker shares their perspective on a wide array of important topics relating to community and the city. In order to attend these online events, please REGISTER HERE

  • Thursday, September 17th – Rafael Delgadillo, PhD Candidate at UC-Santa Cruz in Latin American and Latino Studies
  • Thursday, October 1st – Leticia Casilda, Familia Unidas en Acción Familias Unidas en Acción was founded in 2018 with the vision of providing immigrant families in the greater New Orleans area and Louisiana with the resources needed to thrive in a new community without forgetting their own culture and history. We are the only community organization in New Orleans and Louisiana primarily focused on providing shelter and transitional support to recently arrived immigrant families. Our membership is made up of impacted immigrant families who believe that our families and children deserve equal opportunities, respect as human beings, access to their histories and culture, and to be acknowledged as productive members of society.
  • Thursday October 15 – Fermín Ceballos, musician and writer – Fermín Ceballos is a tri-lingual Afro-Dominican songwriter, musician, bandleader, composer, actor, and poet living and creating art in New Orleans, Louisiana. He studied art & music at the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo (UASD) and was a professor of music for the Dominican Republic Secretary of State for Culture National School System. His primary musical instruments are the accordion, guitar, piano, and voice. Fermín continually works on several musical projects in the Gulf South and the US; such as Merengue4-FOUR, a musical project focused on Dominican Music (Bachata & Merengue Típico), Fermín‘€™s Latin Fusion Orchestra performing original salsa inspired compositions, and Fermín Acústico a musical concept based on guitar and voice. With all his projects, he performs original compositions based on his fusion of different sounds and musical rhythms. In 2019, he released his first book of poems in Spanish and English entitled Pisando Mi Sombra (Walking My Shadow).
  • Thursday, October 29th – Christopher Louis Romaguera. Romaguera is Cuban-American writer who lives in New Orleans, Louisiana. He was born in Hialeah, Florida and graduated from Florida International University in Miami, Florida. Romaguera has been published in The Daily Beast, Curbed National, Peauxdunque Review, New Orleans Review, PANK Magazine and other publications. He is a monthly columnist at The Ploughshares Blog. He has an MFA in Creative Writing at the University of New Orleans.
  • Thursday, November 12th TBD

For more information, please contact 504.865.5164.