A Tourist in Cuba

(Photo: flippinyank)

Chris Turner explores Cuba’s current economic situation through the lens of a Canadian tourist:

Canada is probably the second most important economic ally Cuba has after Venezuela, which supplies more than 60 percent of the island’s oil. (China exports more stuff to Cuba, but the Chinese don’t show up daily by the multiple charter-flight-loads to hand out gifts and pour hundreds of millions of dollars into the Cuban economy.) Cuba is our largest trading partner in the whole of Central America and the Caribbean. We export a range of commodities to Cuba — sulphur, wheat, copper wire — and we are the second-largest buyer of Cuban exports, particularly sugar, nickel, fish, citrus fruits, and tobacco. That’s over $1 billion in total trade.

Turner also reflects on the official and unofficial exchange rate of Cuba’s two currencies, the country’s healthcare system, the economics of tipping in a country like Cuba, and the state of the economy:  

One recent study described Cuba’s current approach as “survival economics.” The Havana-based dissident blogger Yoani Sanchez, writing for the Huffington Post last August, summed up Cuba’s conundrum more eloquently: “We are in transition, something seems to be on the verge of being irreparably broken on this island, but we don’t realize it, sunk in the day-to-day and its problems… we are leaving behind something that seemed to us, at times, eternal.”


yeah it's not easy there, island in dispute with the most powerful country in the world who is your neighbor. i've been there in 1999 in time of kosovo bombing by serbia, serbia was then under embargo. you could get whatever you wanted in serbia, in cuba nothing. not easy, usa really punishing them for long time...


I don't see how Cuba's problems can be because of the U.S. embargo. Most of the rest of the world trades with them. When South Africa was embargoed it took most of the world, virtually all the developed world and it never did really wreck their economy.

Certainly if the U.S. did trade with them it would help them out but that's no more the equivalent of saying the U.S. embargo has caused their situation than a drunk driver running into a tree claiming the reason he crashed is because no one cut down the tree.


Embargo does affect, and in the case of Cuba enormously. Like Chris mentions Canada is after Venezuela the largest trader. Vast majority of countries in South America (due to political difference or US pressure) wont trade with them either. Here in Spain (a natural Cuba trader) US is also putting lots of pressure not to do it. Tha credit cards wont work in Cuba is a major blowout for tourism already.

So at the end, Cuba is like a isolated island in the middle of the Ocean rather than just a few miles from a continent. Successful large islands in similar conditions, or either have strong ties (Iceland, Falklands, Azores or Puerto Rico) or enough resources to be exploited like Australia. Otherwise, you will get... poverty (Cuba, Haiti, Madagascar, Dominican Republic).

That said, big part of Cuba´s problem is self made too, but at least is not in the Haiti situation.


that's it? and what about human rights, democracy, freedom of expressions, a dictatorship for more than 53 years,...


this is an econ blog..


so none of those other things are appropriate discussion for an econ blog?


"Meanwhile please, lets also facilitate them with the tools, the access and support them instead of calling names, kicking and isolating them. Cuba is a friend in need, not a hopeless cockroach."

But that's the point, helping them before they reform is enabling, not really helping. Perhaps making help contingent on reform, but I think that's already the case, the fact is the Castro regime is intransigent. Any help given without conditions will only go to support the dictatorship, in the analogy they'll just use it to buy booze.


Pretty interesting, didn't realize the impact of Canada on the Cuban economy.