Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Cuba Struggles to Diversify and Open its Economy

A Harvard University professor for many years, Jorge Dominguez served as chair of the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies. With a research focus on Cuba, Jorge Dominguez talked in-depth with Readara on a volume he co-edited, The Cuban Economy in a New Era: An Agenda for Change toward Durable Development (David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, Series on Latin American Studies 33).

Describing a background of international financial crisis that compelled president Raul Castro to liberalize Cuba’s economy, Dr. Dominguez noted import-dependent Cuba has still not developed an international exports initiative. 

A past international strategy was to export services such as health care professionals to other countries. Unfortunately, unlike a decade earlier, when Venezuela was a major partner in services traded for petroleum, these deals with countries such as Kenya are relatively small today. 

Another revenue-generating avenue has been tourism, with more facilities opened and an agreement made during the last two years of the Obama administration that generated significant tourism from the United States. In 2017 alone, approximately 600,000 US tourists visited Cuba. 

However, these numbers have dropped, and Cuba has tried to attract more European, Latin American, and Canadian travelers. Unfortunately, the “sun and beach” tourists Cuba attracts tend to be those who take lower-end package tours.