On December 17, 2014, President Obama announced the implementation of a series of new policy measures to “chart a new course on Cuba,” marking a radical departure from long-standing U.S. policies towards the island nation just 90 miles off the coast of Florida. Washington’s shift presents a new set of challenges and opportunities for U.S.-Cuba relations and is likely to have a lasting impact on key sectors of the Cuban economy such as agriculture, international trade, investment, migration, self-employment, and travel and tourism.
Professor Carlos Seiglie, chairperson of the Economics department at Rutgers University–Newark, in conjunction with the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy (ASCE), is hosting a roundtable discussion on Wednesday, June 3, at the RU-N School of Law. Sieglie, who specializes in applied, defense and international economics, is a Cuban-American with deep knowledge of his country of origin and is president of ASCE. He’ll bring together a group of seven academic and non-academic experts who will analyze and discuss the implications of these policy measures on U.S-Cuba relations and on key sectors of the Cuban economy.
Participants include two faculty from the University of Havana: Armando Nova González, who has conducted more than 84 research studies on the Cuban economy, and Lázaro Peña, whose work focuses on the Cuban sugar industry and its relationship to world markets. Other panelists include Professor Ted Henken, who has studied Cuban reform policies toward small private enterprise under President Raúl Castro and U.S. efforts to empower the Cuban entrepreneurial class, along with Ernesto Hernández-Catá, who spent most of his career at the International Monetary Fund and has written extensively on transition problems in the former Soviet Union, along with the U.S., Mexican and Cuban economies.
We sat down with Seiglie to discuss the roundtable and issues that will be addressed by the panel.
Can we expect the U.S. policy shift to have immediate impacts on the Cuban economy?
I think the impacts on Cuba’s economy will be minimal at first. And there are a number of key things Cuba needs to do in order to even begin creating real change. First, Cuba must privatize state-owned farms: They need to start eliminating agricultural cooperatives and transfer them to private individuals. Non-agricultural cooperatives should be privatized as well. And Cuba needs to establish of private-property rights. Once they do that, they should then move quickly to establish a free-market economy. Without these things, Cuba’s economy will not develop.