Thursday 1 April 2010
History has condemned you
If people hoped that things could only get better in Cuba after that communist dinosaur Fidel Castro give way to his brother Raul, a little further ahead in the scale of evolution, they must be disappointed by the results. The real question with these people, in this nepotistic dictatorship, is not when will things get better, no, it’s could they conceivably get any worse? The answer to that is simple, yes, they most certainly can.
Cuba was once an island with a thriving agricultural economy. Not any longer; now food shortages are a regular feature of daily live. This is not North Korea- yet-, there is still the endless monotony of beans and rice to keep people away from the frontier of starvation, but other basics like bread and milk are disappearing from supermarket shelves for weeks on end.
Again it’s the same old same old when the state tries to manage the economy. The worst part of state socialism was always the collectivisation of agriculture. Cuba is no different here from the old Soviet Union. Its state farms are massively inefficient, now producing no more than 20% of the country’s needs. Such private enterprise as the state allows is stymied by a system of central supply and transport totally inelastic in responding to market demands. Last year the whole of a bumper tomato crop rotted, as The Economist reports, because government trucks failed to collect it on time. This style of economic mismanagement means that Cuba has to buy a good part of its food from foreign suppliers, using up limited amounts of hard currency.
History will absolve me, Fidel once declared, appealing to exactly the same court that Adolf Hitler once did, using much the same hyperbolic language. But history is already passing its verdict on the failure of socialism in Cuba, the failure of the whole wasteful Castro experiment, one which effectively destroyed a rich and productive nation. After this remove of time even Batista, the former dictator, looks good. I know from my contacts in Havana that more and more people are looking for the kind of closure that only time, and mortality, can bring.