Cuba: Lessons from this “induced coma” in the economy

Cuba: Lessons from this “induced coma” in the economy

HAVANA, April 23rd (by Dr.C Juan Triana Cordoví) The forecasts for the world economy, whether they are the most moderate or cautious, or the most catastrophic, all make it very clear that the next few months will be one of the most difficult that this new globalized world will have to face; using the phrase of an article by Krugman referring to the United States, the economies are in an induced coma

Getting out of this induced coma will probably cost much more than it costs to keep economies in that state. The weaker economies undoubtedly will probably suffer the most.

Almost all governments today face the difficult situation of maintaining social isolation and at the same time semi-paralyzed economies with enormous present and future costs in economic terms or that of opening economies, to recover the dynamic loss, facing the risk of new waves of pollution and the loss of more lives. No matter what, it’s a tough decision.

What are the limits that the economy of any country can support, no matter how powerful it is? How long can the induced coma last? Perhaps the sample is in the almost desperation of some countries to “return to normality” in economic terms within this pandemic’s abnormality.

Our country is not an exception. This pandemic has led to a fiscal year probably unprecedented in our history. It has made it necessary to readjust everything, from the conception of hospital care to the school year at different levels of education, going through a thorough review of those activities that are really essential and those that are not.

It’s not by sheer luck that our healthcare system has had an exceptional ability to make all the necessary adjustments and face this pandemic on the front line. Nor is it the product of fate, and even less of some divine virtue. There is a lot of work done because it was essential for the Cuban Revolution’s aims many years ago.

The COVID-19 will force us to rethink what is really necessary.

We discovered that many efforts that previously required the presence of citizens can be done using the network, something that should not change when we return to normal.

Today, when a great deal of the country’s productive activities, of those that are really productive and necessary, are still being carried out, it is striking how many fewer state vehicles move through the streets.

When we return to normal, we should think about whether those other are so many vehicles that before the COVID-19 were “moving for work purposes” was really necessary.

How many work activities can be carried out from a distance, such as working from home, because if it was possible to do so in this critical situation, then, after this situation has passed, why not keep all those that are now possible?

We also confirmed something that was already evident: the importance of bank offices and how few there are in relation to the high demand for services that still require the physical presence of people. We are ratifying how important it is to advance much more in everything that is the digitization of banking. Just as the need for more ATMs became more evident.

And then there’s online commerce. This service, so rarely used in Cuba, has suddenly become a highly demanded resource, to the point of sometimes collapsing due to the avalanche of requests that this special situation has caused. When normality is normal, it will be necessary to think about how to improve it in every way, including creating new companies or outsourcing the delivery service.

And the strategic? This pandemic has reinforced the perception of the strategic, for example:

A health system accessible to all, with national coverage and especially with trained and committed professionals who honour their oath, is there anything more strategic?

A staff of equally committed and highly trained scientists, with associated leading industries, is undoubtedly also strategic and must not only be maintained but also improved.

Improving the capabilities of the industry associated with these systems should be strategic. Consolidating those ties of cooperation that have allowed it to work as one, adding and integrating efforts, is also strategic.

The COVID-19 has also confirmed how strategic food production, energy and water is.

Cuba’s scarce capacity to produce food, its weak supply despite all the efforts being made, has become one of the best allies of the coronavirus, due, among other reasons, to the social indiscipline that we suffer and that reaches its clearest expression in the lines to buy food.

When normality permits it, more resources will have to be put into food production, many more than have been put in place so far, both in the agricultural segment of the chain and in the industrial segment. In addition, it will be necessary to achieve that they be used efficiently and surely it will be necessary to put more mind into their organizational forms.

Energy and water are part of the basic infrastructure of every country. In recent years, both have undoubtedly improved. Measured in terms of investments, the effort to modernize and improve both sectors is remarkable. If this effort had not been made in previous years, our situation today would be much more critical.

Reducing water losses in the supply networks has been crucial and undoubtedly very expensive, as well as providing aqueduct services to localities that never had it. And especially when normality returns, it will be necessary to find all possible incentives to educate citizens on saving such a scarce good on this island that has the virtue of being surrounded by water… salty everywhere and it will undoubtedly be necessary to give a boost to those desalination projects at their different scales.

Normality should also make us look at the speed with which we are advancing in that strategic purpose of reducing our dependence on fossil fuels. It is true that we already have a bioelectric plant, but we must manage to have some more in less time. We also already have more than 700 MGW in photovoltaic fields, but we must have more in less time.

And when normality turns on the lights of social life in our country, we should further promote the use of photovoltaic energy in residential consumption and achieve adequate incentives for people to opt for this variant.

The COVID-19 should encourage us to rethink the essential, the necessary and the strategic, for when normality returns to normal.