Academic journal article The International Journal of Cuban Studies

A Lot Done but Much More to Do: An Assessment of the Cuban Economic Transformation So Far

Academic journal article The International Journal of Cuban Studies

A Lot Done but Much More to Do: An Assessment of the Cuban Economic Transformation So Far

Article excerpt


The aim of this paper is to provide a brief summary of the last two years of the process of transformation in Cuba from a primarily economic perspective. It consists of five parts: an introduction, which makes it clear that the changes are not merely economic; a first section that deals with the urgent needs of economic development; a second section that seeks to highlight how the process has been gaining in depth and scope and now focuses more on how to define the paths of development than on survival; a third section that evaluates the results in two perspectives, from the dynamics of the process of change and from the country's economic performance in recent years (although with restrictions due to data availability); and conclusions.

Keywords: economy, Guidelines, results, performance


Two years after the Lineamientos (Guidelines) were approved as the programmatic document of the changes being made in Cuba it is time to take stock, however brief, of their meaning and what has been achieved.

The transformation undertaken has undoubted precedents that cannot be ignored, but it responds to a reality that is qualitatively different from that which pertained during previous processes, just as it has references to the international situation, but neither are they exactly the same.

The scope of the changes (which the Guidelines have caused) is holistic and has not only led to changes in the economy, but is accompanied by the deepest, and possibly the most questioned, institutional changes that have occurred in the country since the mid-1970s. In fact, these transformations challenge the Cuba of the present and introduce logical questions about Cuba's future. They are not only associated with a form of economic operation, but also the political and ideological superstructure that must promote and legitimise it.

They are totally legitimate in the sense that the country that is becoming transformed sustains a society built from a socialism (that of the 1970s and 80s) that replicated patterns generated in Europe and that, after 30 years, failed to generate the means to eliminate the structural deformations of underdevelopment. This society is now moving towards a different socialism, one that is Cuban, to be built upon national conditions that are very different from the European, without a theoretical framework, that closely fits those conditions, and it is doing so at a time when an unquestionable generational transition is taking place. All this implies a paradigm shifteven though in essence what is being attempted is to keep alive the socialist ideal.

To draw the contours of this new socialist ideal is not a simple task, and to define the details of its operation is perhaps a difficult goal to achieve due to the very dynamic nature of the changes to be made.

After two years of implementation, it is time to review the progress and the way forward in the coming years. The work below is intended to contribute to that purpose.

1 From the Confrontation of an Adverse External Environment to a New Conception of Cuban Socialism

Just as in the case of the process of opening that began in 1990, the trigger for the current updating process is associated with external constraints. Indeed, what we know today as 'the updating of the Cuban economic model' is the direct result of a process that started from the middle of 2007 and had as its genesis the confrontation to an adverse external environment:

Since 2005 the limitations of the economy have been evident: to address the deficit in the financial account of the balance of payments, withholding foreign bank transfers and the high amount of debt maturities, all that meant a great stress in handling the economy. (Guidelines, 2011)

The process initiated in 2007 has passed through stages which have ranged from targeting urgent problems (putting idle land into production, adjusting imports to meet the payments crisis, etc. …

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