Fidel Castro’s death has sparked a torrent of questions, including whether President-elect Donald Trump will break with President Barack Obama’s Cuba policy. Mr. Trump tweeted Monday that “If Cuba is unwilling to make a better deal for the Cuban people, the Cuban/American people and the U.S. as a whole, I will terminate deal.” For all of the unknowns, a few things about Cuba’s future appear clear, including that economic changes are likely to be incremental and have modest effects; lifting the trade embargo would have only marginal financial effects on the Cuban people; and economic liberalization is unlikely to bring political change to Cuba.
Cuba, desperate to cut its budget since it is no longer getting economic aid from Russia and Venezuela, has made a number of changes in recent years. It shifted about 600,000 state employees into private employment between 2009 and 2015. Self-employment has risen, with the government opening more than 200 occupations to small-business entrepreneurs, such as hairdressers and restaurant owners, in the past decade. Cuba has also legalized personal cellphone service, the private sale of cars and homes, and room rentals in platforms such as Airbnb. These and other efforts, however, have not liberalized Cuba’s economy. A 2014 law designed to attract foreign investment has more barriers than incentives: Firms must guarantee foreign markets, privatization of state companies is prohibited, foreign ownership of sugar and tobacco is banned, and workers must still be hired by a state agency. Discontent may have been quieted by some of these steps, but the state is still firmly in control.
To read more, please visit The Wall Street Journal.