Cuba’s New Resolve: Economic Reform and its Implications for U.S. Policy

Cuba’s government is taking extraordinary steps to address its economic crisis.  Its effort, to update Cuban institutions and reshape how Cubans earn their living and lead their lives, contains the biggest economic changes Cubans have seen in over two decades and offers a greater prospect for realigning the relationship between Cuban citizens and their state than has seemed possible since 1959.

In a process that one analyst has called “relentless gradualism,” Cuba’s government is relying on private sector solutions, loosened restrictions on the Cuban people, painful cuts in guaranteed employment and social benefits, and aspirations for wealth-creating industries that offer goods and services for export in a competitive global marketplace.  Their goal is simple but unprecedented:  to preserve the communitarian ethos of Cuba’s society and maintain its commitments to education and public health, while building a competitive economy that can honor these obligations in a sustainable way over time.

The Center for Democracy in the Americas – through research and fact-finding missions to the island—has been reporting on Cuba’s economy and the reform process for years.  We are now publishing a comprehensive report – Cuba’s New Resolve: Economic Reform and its Implications for U.S. Policy—which reflects what we’ve learned and why we believe it’s important for U.S. policy makers to understand what is unfolding in Cuba at this time.

Our report tells the story of fifty years of Cuban economic history; it describes in detail the institutional and economic changes taking place now under President Raúl Castro; it identifies what has already been accomplished and what still needs to be addressed, and concludes with constructive ideas for U.S. policy moving forward.

Our findings are based on CDA’s own reporting and analysis, including countless conversations with government officials, experts and analysts, but also with bicycle taxi drivers, new entrepreneurs, and every day Cubans, many of whom have real anxieties about finding a future in Cuba and reforms that will end their access to a guaranteed job and iconic social benefits like the ration card.  We also rely on a broad body of scholarly work already produced, that we pull together, cite, and put in one place, as never before.

The outcome of this process is far from clear.  In our report, we try to provide a realistic assessment of what is happening in Cuba and paint a picture of a process that can make it possible for Cubans to lead more prosperous and independent lives –one that arose not because of pressure from the U.S., but because of forces and ideas that came from inside Cuba itself.

The report is available for download here.