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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.”