Cuba, the fickle southern neighbor of the United States has been as affected by the global downturn in the economy as the rest of the world. But Cuba has seen more than it’s fairshare of change recently. Fidel Castro stepped aside, and his more democratically-leaning brother Raul took over in 2006. Since 1998, the tiny island has been hit by 16 hurricanes. The United States trade embargo, in place since the 1960’s, has always choked the island’s economy. The price of food is on an irreversible upwards trend. And drought throughout the island has cost the island to lose half of its annual gross domestic product.
Faced with these dangers, Cuba is “updating” its Socialist model, and encouraging private business in ways that haven’t been seen on the island in decades. Foreign investors can now lease state land for 99 years, not limited to 50 as they were before. For the first time since 1959, foreign investment in agriculture has been allowed. And the government is now in discussions with foreign backers to construct 16 golf courses around the island and the sale of leases on houses and timeshares in these areas. With the right marketing, Cuba could become a world-wide tourist hub, worthy of the definition exotic: beautiful, mysterious and alluring.
The Cuban government will cede a quarter of its almost 5 million state workers to the cause of private entrepreneurship. They will encourage the move by not making it illegal to have a private business, and by removing the cap on how much a worker can make in one year. Despite the historically contentious feelings the Cuban state has towards the U.S., all economists agree that Cuba would welcome American tourists and their dollars with open arms. If President Obama wins a second term and laxes travel restrictions that have hindered U.S. visitation of Cuba in the past, it could eventually lead to an end of the U.S. embargo, and socialism as Cubans know it.
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