• Short Summary

    Twenty-five years of revolutionary changes have done little to change the basic problem of the Cuban economy -- its dependence on sugar.

  • Description

    HAVANA, CUBA: GV PAN Havana.

    GV PAN DOWN Flats under construction. SV Flats. SV PAN Housing estate. (3 SHOTS)

    SV PAN FROM Poster of Fidel Castro TO traffic.

    GV EXTERIOR Factory gates. GV INTERIOR Woman working in textile mill. TRACKING SHOT Textile machinery. (4 SHOTS)

    GV Steel plant ZOOM OUT TO TRAIN. SV INTERIOR Molten steel being extruded. SV EXTERIOR Workers leaving factory. (5 SHOTS)

    SV Oranges and grapefruits being loaded onto Soviet ship. SCU Hammer and Sickle on funnel. SV Sugar being loaded. SV Fish being loaded. (9 SHOTS)

    SV INTERIOR Children in play-school. (2 SHOTS)

    GV EXTERIOR New Hospital. SVs INTERIOR Radiologist at computer controls. Patient in X-ray machine and screen showing X-ray. Patients being treated in physiotherapy department. (6 SHOTS)

    GVs Luxury hotels and people relaxing on beach. (5 SHOTS)

    GVs & SVs People in crowded shopping centre. (5 SHOTS)

    Initials PW/JRS

    Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved

    Background: Twenty-five years of revolutionary changes have done little to change the basic problem of the Cuban economy -- its dependence on sugar. When Fidel Castro's guerrillas seized power on New Year's Day 1959, the Caribbean Island relied on sugar for about 80 per cent of its foreign revenue. The proportion is virtually the same today despite greater industrialisation and diversification of the economy. The world price sugar has become the barometer of the Cuban economy and in recent months it has been falling. But despite this, Cubans enjoy a relatively high standard of living and a well-developed welfare state monthly paid for by Soviet support variously estimated at between 2 and 4.5 billion dollars not counting aid grants, soft loans and free arms supplies.

    SYNOPSIS: Havana ... one of the most beautiful cities in the Caribbean. But much of the city, the overcrowded home of two million people, is crumbling and decaying.

    Housing for many is a major problem but there is none of the abject poverty which characterises many Third World countries. Since 1970 a total of 185,000 new homes have been built by the Ministry and many Cubans live in rent-free accommodation like this. In another scheme, Cubans pay 10 per cent of their wages to the state to cover rent.

    Recently posters of Castro have been much in evidence to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the revolution. The Cuban leader has announce annual growth of five per cent in 1983 as against 2.5 per cent in 1982 with a projected five per cent this year. He claims the economy has grown despite strengthened the US blockade on trade, travel and finance -- a blockade recently strengthened by President Ronald Reagan.

    A textile mill on the outskirts of Havana. Cuba's full membership of the Soviet-led trading bloc COMECOM has helped it to expand its industrial base. It has certainly sheltered the country from the world recession although Cuba still owes the Western banks and governments an estimated 3.3 billion dollars.

    Cuba lacks heavy industry but with Soviet help there are plans to increase the number of steel mills. Mechanical parts have to be imported and there is a constant shortage. Many old American cars from the pre-revolution days clog the Havana streets. Castro says that steel mills like these will produce 60 per cent of the components for new sugar refineries which are currently under construction.

    The Havana docks are always busy, mostly with Soviet ships taking on citrus fruits, fish and the ever-present sugar. Far from reducing the emphasis on sugar the government plans to increase production from the current seven to eight million tonnes to 11 million tonnes by the end of the century. It can always be sold to the Soviet Union at an artificial price indexed to the cost of Soviet equipment to Cuba (currently more than 55 cents a kilo) or used to repay debts to Moscow currently estimated at six billion dollars.

    A pre-school play-group where parents can leave their children when they go to work. Government spending on education and health takes up more than 20 per cent of the budget. Illiteracy has been virtually eliminated and cradle-to-grave social benefits ensure that even the poorest families do not hungry and have equal access to medical treatment and schooling.

    The 24-storey high Hermanos Ameijeras hospital in central Havana is a showpiece. The first patients, including the wounded from the recent US-led Grenada invasion, began to move in recently. The 1,000 bed hospital's equipment includes this million-dollar body scan and a computerised administrative and records service. The average life expectancy of a Cuban born in the 1950s was around 50 compared with 73 today. Infant mortality has been slashed from around 60 per 1,000 live births to 16. Health and innoculation campaigns have virtually eliminated polio, malaria, and diptheria which once killed thousands of Cuban youngsters.

    One of the most important sources of foreign exchange for Cuba is the tourist sector. Before the revolution Havana was the playground of the United States with its casinos and miles of beaches. Now the hotel infra-structure remains and the beaches are remarkably uncrowded for a Caribbean island. But thousands arrive annually to bolster the tourist trade, including visitors from the United States.

    But it is in these crowded Havana streets where the shoppers swarm that the success of the revolution is judge. Twenty-five years have not turned Cuba into a Marxist-Leninist Utopia. The state's planning system is riddled with shortages and inefficiencies. Castro was reportedly shocked when 125,00 people opted to leave the island in the 1980 Mariel boat exodus to the US. He also admitted that the revolution has made mistakes along the way. But there is little evidence that Castro is seen as anything other than a popular leader who has brought great benefits to his anything other than popular leader who has brought great benefits to his country.

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