Cuba still next to last in Index of Economic Freedom

The 2013 Index of Economic Freedom is out, and Cuba remains next to last place, above only North Korea.

Cuba’s economic freedom score is 28.5, making its economy one of the world’s least free. Its overall score is 0.2 point higher than last year, with a notable decline in monetary freedom counterbalanced by gains in freedom from corruption and fiscal freedom. Cuba is ranked least free of 29 countries in the South and Central America/Caribbean region, and its overall score is significantly lower than the regional average.

Cuba scores far below world averages in most areas of economic freedom, and its economy remains one of the world’s most repressed. The foundations of economic freedom are particularly weak in the absence of an independent and fair judiciary. No courts are free of political interference, and pervasive corruption affects many aspects of economic activity.

As the largest source of employment, the public sector accounts for more than 80 percent of all jobs. A watered-down reform package endorsed by the Cuban Communist Party in April 2011 promised to trim the number of state workers and allow restricted self-employment in the non-public sector, but many details of the reform are obscure and little progress has been observed. The private sector is severely constrained by heavy regulations and tight state controls. Open-market policies are not in place to spur growth in trade and investment, and the lack of competition stifles productivity growth.


A one-party Communist state, Cuba depends on external assistance (chiefly oil provided by Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez and remittances from Cuban émigrés) and a captive labor force to survive. Property rights are severely restricted. Fidel Castro’s 81-year-old younger brother Raul continues to guide both the government and the Cuban Communist Party. Cuba’s socialist command economy is in perennial crisis. The average worker earns less than $25 a month, agriculture is in shambles, mining is depressed, and tourism revenue has proven volatile. But economic policy is resolutely Communist, and the regime rejects any moves toward genuine political or economic freedom.

Lions, leopards and buffalo: latest punchlines in the running joke of Cuban “economic reform”

As we’ve heard so many times since Raul Castro took the helm in Cuba, the younger of two Communist dictators is a pragmatist. A reformer. He’s brought changed to the island’s dated, no-longer-sufficient economic system that everyone has known were long overdue.

There are signs that the changes Raul has made are paying off. With economic freedom from the state comes new opportunity. For example: the opportunity to work for the state.

But wait; there’s more! This “brigade of cuentapropistas,” as the BBC refers to it, will be using its freedom from the state to work for the state in accommodating immigrants that will kick Cuba’s economic progress up a few notches: 146 wild animals that Namibia has donated to Cuba, including (but not limited to) lions, leopards and buffalo.

Let me pause here for the benefit of any new readers who might not read much Cuba news. Yes, you are reading this correctly. The government that created “spaces” for free-ish market activity because confining its citizens within its ludicrous economic system was too much of a burden… has decided that the next step in its scheme is to not only hire all those workers right back, but spend a reported $15 million on committing to the care of 146 wild animals. For a zoo in a city where plenty of the human attractions need remittances to feed themselves properly.

And… call me crazy, but something tells me this project won’t stay under its $15 million-dollar budget. Between whatever the regime agreed to pay its new “independent contractors” (cuentapropistas translates roughly to “ownaccorders” or “ownaccounters”), the frivolous and unproductive “job creation” the project will prompt the state to spend on, and the meat that it will presumably feed those animals while denying meat to the two-legged class outside the fence… this might just be the most hilarious-if-it-weren’t-so-tragic theft of Cuban time and talent (a “long con,” if you will) we’ve seen in some time.

Read all about it — including Cuba’s history of inability to properly feed its zoo animals and the international brouhaha over the animals’ right to better migration conditions — here.

Finally, here’s a video of some lions at a zoo in Camaguey, Cuba. It was supposedly shot in May of this year… probably close enough to present day that we can place it in the post-special-period period during which interviewees for the BBC story insist the government has fattened up its animals.