It has been a week since our class returned from Cuba. Back to the world of cell phone connectivity, credit card machines, and long lines at Starbucks. While I can’t say that I miss being disconnected from the world, I can say that I thoroughly enjoyed my one week of limited connectivity! It certainly gave me the opportunity to immerse myself in the program, and to fully experience the Cuban culture, people, and business environment.
I have spent quite a bit of time reflecting on our experience there, and I have been sharing my thoughts with others who have asked about my trip. Talking about Cuba with people who have never been there has forced me to collect my thoughts, and to attempt to articulate what it is like to live, work, and conduct business in Cuba.
The short answer: it’s not easy. Although Raul Castro has committed to many, important reforms, Cuba still has an incredibly long way to go before it will be able to attract regular, meaningful foreign investment. Infrastructure, support systems, and a skilled, domestic labor force will be required to entice other countries to come to Cuba and do business. These initiatives will require cohesive, transparent efforts on the part of the government, and partners who are willing to roll up their sleeves and invest in Cuba’s future success.
Private enterprise also has a long way to go. The number of private businesses is growing, and these businesses are creating jobs, fostering innovation, and increasing consumption. But more must be done! Cubans must be incentivized – and enabled – to establish private businesses that will positively impact the society and economy.
In short, Cuba needs an infusion of public support (from the government) and private enterprise to propel it to the next level. All of the resources are there – incredibly strategic trading location, powerful domestic industries such as alcohol and sugar, and the passion and drive of a younger generation. Cuba’s task will be to set conditions for future success, and to provide the current generation with the tools to succeed in the future.
I cannot close this series of blog posts without commenting on the state of US-Cuba relations. While there are countless factors to consider, I would submit the following, general opinions:
1. Current US-Cuba trade and political relations are (mostly) based on events that took place more than 50 and should most definitely be revisited and reconsidered.
2. Cuba must be prepared to make concessions, if it wants to bring the US to the negotiating table. The Cuban government has much to gain from the restoration of diplomatic and trade ties; sacrifices may have to be made in the short term, to secure long term gains.
3. Cuba’s current status as a “State Sponsor of Terror” will continue to effect US-Cuba relations. Recent alignment with authoritarian regimes (North Korea, Russia) will continue to have negative impacts on the restoration of diplomatic and trade ties. Cuba would be wise to avoid such partnerships.
I could go on, but will stop there. I look forward to watching Cuba’s progress over the years to come, and hope to pay another visit to Havana at some point in the future.
Katie Horgan ‘14