From the Daily Reckoning
Fidel Castro is back on the job. After a long illness, the man is back at work...running his island nation into the ground.
Fifty years ago, Cuba was the most prosperous, most fun-loving, most- likely-to-succeed nation in Latin America. But...uh oh...it had a dictator.
So, Fidel Castro and his band of sociopaths and incompetents took over. One of Fidel's first acts as the new dictator was to appoint Che Guevara to run the central bank. What a mistake that was. Che was no better banker than he was anything else...which is to say, he was terrible. Soon, the economy was a wreck. Fidel figured he should get rid of Che...so Che was packed off to begin a series of very stupid attempts to export revolution...first, with a criminal gang in Africa, which ended in disaster for everyone...and second, where at least Che could speak the language, in South America. That one ended in disaster for Che...which is to say, it was a plus for the rest of the world.
But El Presidente is no fool. And now he's come to see that his economic model doesn't work. Bloomberg reports:
Fidel Castro's comment to a visiting US journalist that Cuba's economic system doesn't work is the strongest signal yet that the communist island is looking to private enterprise and foreign investment to bolster growth.
"The Cuban model doesn't even work for us anymore," Castro told journalist Jeffrey Goldberg after being asked if he believed it was something still worth exporting, according to a post yesterday on The Atlantic magazine's website. Castro didn't elaborate on his comment, Goldberg said.
Since re-entering the public sphere in July following an illness that almost killed him, statements by the 84-year-old former president have focused on international affairs. His silence on domestic issues signals he is willing to allow his brother Raul to reduce state control of the economy, said Tomas Bilbao, executive director of the Washington-based Cuba Study Group, which promotes free-market overhaul of the Cuban economy.
"These are pragmatic admissions from an idealist," Bilbao said. "Ever since he came back he has stayed away from talking about domestic issues which in itself is the best thing he can do to support his brother's running of the country."
Raul Castro, 79, has initiated measures to open the economy since being handed power by his brother in 2006. The moves come as the economy suffers its worst slide since the former Soviet Union ended its support in the 1990s, Bilbao said.
In a speech to the National Assembly on Aug. 1, Raul said that the government will allow more citizens to work for themselves rather than for the state. He warned that some government workers will lose their jobs to reduce inefficiency.
That month, the government loosened controls that prohibited Cubans from selling their own fruit and vegetables. It also eased property laws, extending lease periods to 99 years from 50 years for foreign investors in an effort to build up a tourism infrastructure and draw more visitors to the Caribbean island of 11.4 million people.
Cubans can now run private taxi companies, own mobile phones and operate their own barbershops. The state still controls 90 percent of the economy, paying workers salaries of about $20 a month in addition to free rationed food staples and health care, and nearly free housing and transportation.
The island's economy is suffering after prices for exports such as sugar and seafood fell. Cuba, the world's seventh- biggest nickel exporter, has seen the price of that metal tumble 59 percent this year.
Raul said in July that one in five state workers may not be needed to keep the government running. The Cuban government employs 95 percent of the country's workforce.
Cuba now receives about 100,000 barrels of oil a day from Venezuela, which Cuba pays for by sending medical staff to work in the South American country's community clinics. Venezuela has suffered five consecutive quarters of economic contraction and Cuba is looking to diversify its trade partners, Bilbao said.
What surprises us is that anyone thought the Cuban model would ever work.
for The Daily Reckoning