Is Cuba Changing For The Better?

Apr 24, 2011 By Anita Ramachandran
Deepa Gopal's picture

Imagine working in a country where you are guaranteed a job, get free education and health care, food is inexpensive and you are paid $20 a month. Does that sound attractive? Well, it did - to a lot of Cubans who did not have jobs and were living in poverty in the years after Cuba got independence from Spain.

More recently, Cuban President - Raul Castro, has announced that more than half a million people employed by his government will be losing their jobs - 85% of the country presently works for the government! Cubans are encouraged to start their own private businesses and the government can save on costs of supporting their people. These announcements have taken the Cubans and the world by surprise, as it signals a shift in Cuba's socialist policy.

Working for the 'state'

In 1959, a band of revolutionaries led by Fidel Castro overthrew the dictatorial government of Fulgencio Batista. After he became president, Castro ordered the takeover of farmlands, banks and private institutions, most of which were in the control of big U.S companies. He established a 'socialist' order, where everyone worked for the state and in return received state care and support. This has had lasting impact - positive and negative.

Cubans were getting paid whether they worked hard or not and over the years, people simply were not motivated to do their jobs, resulting in gradual economic slowdown. Cuba depends on imports for 80% of its food. Tourism and sugar are the primary source of revenue for the country.

What are the proposed changes?

Since taking over the Presidency from brother Fidel in 2006, Raul Castro has realized that for Cuba to be competitive, the government needs to step aside and let the people take decisions. The Communist party met for the first time in 14 years last week. At the meeting, Raul has proposed that future leaders of Cuba have a 10 year maximum term of office. Cubans will be given the right to buy and sell their homes and cars -- a right we take for granted. The government will transfer state property to its people.

There was great expectation that young people would be elected to run the party. But guess what -- Raul announced 2 people, both over 78 years of age to assist him in the political process! There is growing concern that  the next generation is not being groomed to lead the country.

Two official currencies

“National peso” is the currency that the Cubans are paid and used to purchase basic needs and non luxury items. “Convertible peso” is the currency used by tourists. Since 2004, to buy one Cuban Peso a tourist had to pay $1.08 USD. This currency is being made cheaper (or devalued) by 8% so that one USD can buy one Cuban Peso. This should make Cuba more affordable to tourists and bring in revenue.

Ordinary Cubans have barely reacted to these changes. Either they do not understand the effects of the changes, or they are afraid to speak openly. But it is clear that many of them will be part of the change that is sweeping through Cuba -- a change from guaranteed jobs and paid lunches!


srinidhi12's picture
srinidhi12 October 30, 2013 - 5:13am


Raptorman2012's picture
Raptorman2012 April 23, 2012 - 5:17pm

$20 dollars as your sallary isn't enough.

sierrar's picture
sierrar May 28, 2011 - 6:00am

Wow 20 million a month dang!

kenn's picture
kenn May 28, 2011 - 5:50am

20 dollars a month. Wow.

felipef's picture
felipef May 27, 2011 - 6:45pm
it is a good thing that the US lifted the cuban embargo
ashleym's picture
ashleym May 26, 2011 - 6:11pm
Yes i think they are expecting tooooooo much!
ashleym's picture
ashleym May 26, 2011 - 5:14pm

i think this is some great deal! They should only worry for many people to come and move there! Or for them to run out of money!

Sammy02's picture
Sammy02 April 28, 2011 - 7:25am
Raul Castro is bringing out a very sudden change in the country. I wonder whether the Cubans can adapt or rather understand what is happening around them.
Arjun's picture
Arjun April 26, 2011 - 9:29pm

This is a step in the right direction for Cuba. Raul Castro seems to be taking the right moves away from the socialism that his brother installed in the country. Other than not giving a voice to the younger generation..

Matthew14's picture
Matthew14 April 26, 2011 - 2:47am
Inflation isn't as bad in Cuba as it is in America.
Arjun's picture
Arjun April 26, 2011 - 9:26pm
I agree with you there. Even though America seems to be in a better state than Cuba, Cuba had to forcibly reduce its currency value to match the Americans. And the way that America is going, they're going to have to do that again.
diamond's picture
diamond April 25, 2011 - 8:21am

i do not think that it is fair for some people who work hard to be paid the same amount of money as some one who do their work badly since they will always get their wage

Matthew14's picture
Matthew14 April 26, 2011 - 2:49am

WOW!! Fantastic view, that is the American Capitalist System. Unortunately, there are attempts to destroy the capitalist system.

diamond's picture
diamond April 25, 2011 - 8:19am
even if i got food for cheap prices , free education and health care , i would not want to be paid just 20 dollars when i could earn more money from my job
Armaan's picture
Armaan April 25, 2011 - 10:44am
If food is cheap and you have less money, other goods become more valuable, while food remains as easy to get. He wants civilians to concentrate only on necessities.
diamond's picture
diamond April 25, 2011 - 8:17am
how does he expect that the people who were working fot the government would be able to start working for the private business again