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Cuban Communism Faces the Unthinkable July 28, 2010

Posted by tkcollier in Geopolitics.
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The global financial crisis, and the $10 billion in damage inflicted by three hurricanes in 2008, have forced authorities to run a deficit of 5 percent of GDP, leaving them unable to pay back credits received from China and elsewhere. Cuba slashed spending on importing food and other basics by 34 percent to $9.6 billion in 2009, from $12.7 billion the previous year. But so far, the moves have not been enough to rein in the deficit.

President Raul Castro has startled the nation lately by saying about one in five Cuban workers may be redundant. Carmelo Mesa-Lago, a Cuba economics expert and professor emeritus at the University of Pittsburgh, said Cuban officials have spent months debating cuts in the labor force and economic reforms. He said they know what’s needed, but face “a problem of political viability.”

Various government perks like cars, gas, uniforms and office supplies have become incentives to bloat the payroll, since they are based on the size of a company’s work force.

But low pay means low productivity. On Obispo street, a state-run cafeteria sells heavily subsidized soft ice cream and pork sandwiches for the equivalent of a few American pennies — meaning wages and tips are so tiny that the staff is complete indifferent toward customers. Three waiters sit at the counter cracking jokes. A fourth is the only one working, making coffee for three tables. Nearby, a cashier stares into space, a cook flirts with a scantily clad teen and a supervisor sits idly by.

Here, nearly everyone works for the state and official unemployment is minuscule, but pay is so low that Cubans like to joke that “the state pretends to pay us and we pretend to work.” –  monthly salaries worth only $20 a month on average.

via Jobless in Cuba? Communism faces the unthinkable – Yahoo! News.

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