Home > Miguel Iturria Savón > The Horn of Poverty

The Horn of Poverty

Neither the printed media nor Cuban television commented on the figures published last week by the National Office of Statistics (ONE), which belie the growth expectation announced by the government, and they confirm that the Island is not a bubble within the world economic crisis.

Cuba managed to reduce its trade deficit in 2009 compared to previous years, but it decreased its oil production and the sale of goods, and the health sector was affected by the export of doctors to earn foreign exchange.

Oil production fell by nearly 300,000 tons in 2009 vs. 2008, while natural gas extraction stagnated. Oil production last year was 2.78 million tons and the equivalent in gas was 1.15 million tons, down 3.0 million and 1.16 million respectively, compared to 2008.

Although ONE did not detail the causes of the declines in production, it coincided with the forced purchase of the concessions of the Canadian companies Perbercan and Sherrit International, although the latter continues its operations in other oil blocks located in a stretch of more than 60 miles of the northeast, and processed at the refinery in Cienfuegos, in the central-south of the Island.

The effects of the black gold are less than those occasioned by the import and export of merchandise, because Cuba continued to acquire 93,000 barrels a day, primarily from Venezuela, which finances the crude at partner prices.

The same source said that Cuban exports reached some $ 3.1 billion and the imports $ 9.621 billion, for a total sales volume of $12,721 billion in 2009, which represents a drop of 34% from 2008, which means less raw materials for national industry and more scarcities of essential products for the internal market.

In 2009 Venezuela was our main trading partner with a value of $ 3.389 billion, 36% less than in 2008. China was next with $ 1.821 billion (a drop of 21%), followed by Spain, Canada and the United States, from where the island has acquired food and medicine since 2001, although due to the embargo Cuba is required to pay in cash. Purchases from the USA in 2009 amounted to $ 729 million, with a drop of 30% relative to 2008.

While these figures of the government’s business with its “historic enemy” are hidden from the population, they reveal in part the external dependence and increasing poverty on the island, which spent $ 2.86 billion to acquire oil and derivatives, less than the $ 4.926 billion in 2008; and $ 1.614 billion for food, down from the $2.381 billion of the previous year.

In this picture of a decline in imports and a liquidity crisis, Cuba reduced its trade with Canada by 48.95%, with Spain by 36.44%, and with Venezuela by 35.79%, the latter being the main ally and supporter of the government of the Castro brothers.

The figures reflect the growing poverty and scarcity of basic goods, as foreign trade contracted in 2009: from $14.235 billion in 2008 to $ 0.909 in 2009, a drop of 37%. This corresponded with the policy of reducing purchases and favoring the balance of payments to the detriment of the population, discouraged by the poverty wages they receive from the State, the only owner and employer.

With Brazil, Italy, Mexico, Germany and Holland, the figures oscillated, although the trade with Mexico improved compared to other years, but with a decline of 17%.

The official digits of the National Office of Statistics certify the uncertainty of a country subjugated by centralization and an extreme bureaucracy. If the government promotes economic transition and unleashes the productive forces we will begin to emerge from the ruins. Only in this way will efficiency cease to be just a political slogan.

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