Desde Dentro de Cuba.

Distribuido por Cuba Free Press, Inc. - http://www.cubafreepress.org

June 17, 1999.

CUBA'S ECONOMIC WOES BEGAN BEFORE SOVIET MELTDOWN By Alberto Iglesias, Cuba Free Press.

HAVANA - Ever since the demise of the Soviet empire, top Cuban officials have been laying the blame on that historical event for the island's multiple economic failings. The dissolution of the Soviet Union is said to be the cause of the scarcity of agricultural products. The resulting decrease in the availability of petroleum, fertilizers and agricultural equipment, so the reasoning goes, is directly responsible for the serious decline in agricultural production.

However, Cuba's own statistics as well as those published by specialized international institutions clearly indicate that the country's agricultural production decreased every single year throughout the 80's, when the Cuban economy was still receiving massive Soviet aid.

Between 1981 and 1989 sugar cane production, as well as production in the non-sugar related agricultural sector, showed a marked decline. Potato yields dropped from 20.10 tons per hectare in 1981 to 16.72 tons per hectare in 1989. The yield of another staple of the Cuban diet, a tuber known as "malanga," fell from 11.30 tons per hectare in 1981 to 5.49 tons per hectare in 1989. (1)

In spite of the agricultural credits and most favored nation status bestowed upon Cuba by the Soviet Union, during this period rice yields decreased from 3.41 tons per hectare to 3.28 per hectare. Tomato production fell from 12.79 tons per hectare to 6.44 tons. Also, during the same period onion yields decreased from 8.10 tons per hectare to 3.69 tons. (2)

Soviet meltdown notwithstanding, from 1989 to 1995 Cuban agriculture increased its use of fertilizers by no less than 28%, according to data published by the Economic Commission for Latin America (ECLA). (3)

Cuba's cattle herd began to decrease in 1957. That year there were 5.3 million head of cattle in Cuba. (4) But by 1989, the size of the herd had dropped to 4.91 million head, notwithstanding the rationing of meat imposed by the government from 1959 onwards. During 1980-1989, consumption of beef dropped from 7.8 kilograms per capita to 6.8 kilograms. (5)

The drop in the number of cattle brought about a decrease in the production and consumption of fresh milk. From 1984 to1988 milk production was reduced by 26.500 tons. The fresh milk deficit was met by distribution of powdered milk from East Germany. (6) Thus, the fall of the Berlin wall did not bring about the scarcity of milk in Cuba; instead, it simply highlighted Cuba's deficiencies in the agricultural sector.

Eggs, which contribute more proteins than any other single item to the current Cuban diet, did not escape the economy's inefficiencies. During 1984, consumption was 254.6 eggs per capita. This dropped to 238.5 per capita in 1989, a decrease of 6.3%. Fishing fell by 25% in 1986 and again in 1989. In 1989, more than 50% of the calories consumed by the Cuban population came from imported foodstuffs. (7)

Agriculture was not the only economic sector that was stagnant during the 80's. The industrial sector was unable to generate sufficient resources to finance consumption, due to the inefficient utilization of its installed capacity.

The acute economic crisis is the sole responsibility of the Cuban regime. Outside forces are not responsible for the economic and social paralysis which plague the island nation. Instead, the present situation is the result of the decisions taken by an ideologically bound, bureaucratically dominated ruling class. This class, the Cuban Communist Party, gives number one priority to those measures which ensure its absolute control over the populace and exerts only casual consideration to improving the country's bleak economic situation.

SOURCES: 1.-Cuban Statistical Summary, 1989 2.-Idem 3.-ECLA Annual Report, 1996 4.-Levi Marrero, Geography of Cuba 5.-Cuban Statistical Summary, 1989 6.-Idem 7.-Idem

Alberto Iglesias, Cuba Free Press


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