TRAVEL: CUBA: ECONOMY

ECONOMY

Cuba has a regulated economy based on the communist philosophy. The goal seems to be equality for all its people. There is no rich elite as exists in capitalist societies. There are no Rockefellers, no Trumps, no Carnegies, no Rogers. As well, there are no Exxon Mobils, no Bell Telephones, no Shell Oils, no AT&Ts, no TIME-WARNERs. Everyone in Cuba benefits or suffers equally depending on how their country is doing.

Of course, employment is as troublesome in Cuba as it is in many other countries in the world, capitalist or communist. Cuba lacks an abundance of natural resources; its industries are old, rudimentary and lacking in development funds. Foreign investors may be interested in backing development but Cuba aims to control any foreign investors to avoid any repetition of the evils they felt the nation suffered pre-1959 revolution. Hence, tourist industry investors are restricted to being secondary partners of the Cuban government in any financial endeavour.

Cuba trade grows continuously with China, Spain and Canada being the biggest trade partners. Cuba’s economy still is a limited one but it continues in its efforts to grow, develop and enhance life for the people there.

Tourism, of course, is a huge industry. Spain seems to have found a way to partner with the Cuba government and has opened many successfully managed resorts in many parts of Cuba. The Spanish managed resorts/hotels seem to be the most attractive and most patronised by tourists to Cuba today.

The cigar industry
Cuba is famous the world over for its cigars. Other cigar producing countries try to compete, but cigar aficionados recognise the Cuban cigar as the king!

Touring a Cuban cigar factory with an English-speaking guide was eye opening.

The cigar industry mirrors communism very well in that every worker is equal to the other.

Cigar production is a piecework industry. Workers income is determined by the number of cigars and the type of cigars made. A cigar maker is paid less for making Monte Cristos, more for Romeo y Juliets and even more for Guantanameras. So when one asks why a worker would not choose to make Guantanameras only, the answer is central management. A plant manager has the responsibility to distribute cigar production among the factory workers in an equitable manner so that every worker has equal opportunity of making the highest paid cigars.

Cuban cigars are a golden natural resource for the island. Tobacco was brought to Cuba from other Caribbean islands but rose to world acknowledged heights of glory when smokers tasted the quality of the Cuban product. Cuban cigars are made with the same care French vintners use to produce their wines. Tobacco leaves are graded, fermented and aged with care and regular monitoring. Selection and categorization of the leaves is handled by skilled and experienced workers schooled in what makes a quality cigar.

The Cuban cigar is hand-crafted custom made. Tobacco leaves are carefully selected, particular leaves for each part of the cigar, the outer shell casing for packaging and holding the cigar together, the inner leaves for taste, or the innermost leaves for aroma, bouquet and scent. These tobacco treasures are made for taste, not for just ‘blowin smoke.’

Tourism, hospitality industries
The hospitality business is big business in Cuba as it should be. The island has beautiful beaches along almost every coast. Russian tourists vacationed in Cuba and built up foundations of the tourist industry there. Today, countries like Spain have bought partnerships with the Cuban government and developed the resorts even more. Tourism in Cuba is comparable to the best in the world in many ways. Young people attracted to jobs in the industry and are encouraged to attend school for many years of training in the hospitality industry. Elementary schools offer apprenticeship programs. It is not uncommon to see young people barely in their teens working as doormen, luggage managers and towel attendants in many Cuban resorts. Those who choose to remain in the industry eventually may find work in a hotel or a resort though daily travel to their workplace will often be a problem as resorts are usually far away from villages and towns inland. But the job attraction in this industry is still very high because hospitality workers seem to be better off workers compared to others.

The government recognises the important of tourism to the country. Young people begin training in elementary school in what is an apprentice program. With each passing year, these students move up the scale in the type of work they do from washing dishes and such in the early years to doormen and low-level bus and luggage management services in later years until they graduate. Those who choose to remain in the industry eventually may find work in a hotel or a resort though daily travel to their workplace may be a tiresome endeavour but the rewards are better than those in other areas of work.

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