- Obama not worried about Ebola at upcoming African summit in D.C.
- Obama: ‘We tortured some folks’ after 9/11
- Obama administration asked whole D.C. Circuit to take on major Obamacare case
- Mark Levin: Topple GOP leadership or country will ‘unravel’
- Massachusetts to let police chief deny gun buys to those deemed unfit
- John Kerry condemns attack on Israeli soldiers, kidnapping
- U.S. starts to evacuate American Ebola patients from West Africa: Report
- Geraldo slammed as ‘dummy’ for backing Clinton’s bin Laden claim
- Israeli spokesman: No need to debate who broke the cease-fire
- 35 Palestinians killed; Israeli officer missing
Raul Castro bets on Cuban travel amid reforms
Question of the Day
HAVANA (AP) — Cuba seems to be betting that its decision to allow most of its citizens to travel abroad freely will be as good for its economy as it is for its public relations.
The announcement comes as the communist island nation carries out a cautious, limited free-market experiment to reform Cuba’s inefficient economy, which includes a plan to fire 1 million state workers and allow more entrepreneurship.
Cuba’s leaders seem confident that lifting exit visa requirements will not produce an embarrassing exodus. Instead, experts say, a controlled migration might ease the pain of its economic overhaul by providing an outlet for the anticipated surge in unemployed workers and an investment in human capital if Cubans return home with experience in market economies.
The biggest problem with Cuba’s layoff plan “is that there are not enough jobs available in the private sector to absorb these workers,” said Paolo Spadoni, a political scientist at Augusta State University in Georgia. “Thus, some of these workers will either leave for good or work temporarily abroad and return to Cuba, in both cases increasing the amount of remittances to the island.”
Other Communist-run countries saw similar changes to travel restrictions as reform reshaped their societies. Vietnam did away with its exit and entry visa requirements in 1997, and there are now no limits on citizens traveling overseas except for dissidents deemed a threat to national security.
Citizens of the Soviet Union also once had to go through a long, complicated procedure to leave, but exit visas were formally scrapped in 1993 after the Soviet bloc’s dissolution. Russians now must still apply for foreign travel passports, but there are few restrictions on those except for high-ranking intelligence and military officers and employees involved in top-secret defense projects.
Cuba’s highly educated but low-paid professionals and academics seem ripe to take off, lured overseas by lucrative jobs after decades of living in a state-dominated economy with virtually no independent industry and an antiquated technological infrastructure.
Under the new provisions taking effect in January, Cubans may stay abroad for two years before forfeiting full citizenship rights; previously the limit was 11 months. Another provision allows Cubans who have emigrated for good the opportunity to apply to return.
Those changes could make it easier for islanders to study or work abroad, returning in theory as valuable contributors to Mr. Castro’s evolving hybrid economy.
“We are facing something new, a positive step in that doors have been opened in terms of job training and formation for the Cuban labor force,” said Arturo Lopez-Levy, a Cuban economist who lectures at the University of Denver. “Yes, the potential for migration is going to increase, but in an optimal scenario for Cuban policy, without reaching destabilizing levels.”
But some might call it an act of faith to expect that a Cuban professional, who earns an average of about $20 a month, would be filled with sufficient revolutionary fervor to return from a high-paid job in Europe.
And whether the new Cuban economy will take off remains a key question.
Mr. Castro has decentralized industries, expanded private entrepreneurship and farming, and legalized home and car sales. He is about to enter an experimental phase with medium-size cooperative businesses.
But the state retains a dominant role in all key sectors, and analysts say today’s entrepreneurial landscape dotted with what some have dubbed “bonsai businesses” is hardly enough to rescue the economy.
“You let them go for a couple of years … always under control, and then they come home with a little money saved up,” said Oscar Espinosa Chepe, a former government economist-turned-dissident. “Those who do come back, I don’t think they’ll bring much with them.”
TWT Video Picks
By Orrin G. Hatch
Procedural changes impede the chamber's traditional deliberative function
- Border agents cleared of civil rights complaints from illegal immigrant children
- U.N. condemns Israel, U.S. for not sharing Iron Dome with Hamas
- Ben Carson takes major step toward presidential campaign
- Obama military strategy too weak for future security, panel reports
- Porn-surfing feds blame boredom, lack of work for misbehavior
- Feds raid S.C. home to seize Land Rover in EPA emission-control crackdown
- CRUZ: A tale of two hospitals: One in Israel, one in Gaza
- Pentagon wants extra $19M to equip, train Ukrainian troops
- Ted Nugent slams 'lying freaks' at liberal media: I'm 'doing God's work'
- Houston mayor: Sorry that police put man's blind dog on road to die
Top 10 U.S. military helicopters
Obama's biggest White House 'fails'
Celebrities turned politicians
Athletes turned actors