On Thursday, April 19, the face of Cuba’s regime is set to change, but not the ruling style of the single Cuban Communist Party. After more than half a century of rule by Fidel and Raul Castro, Vice-President Miguel Diaz-Canel is set to become Cuba’s head of state by the end of the week. With the retirement of Raul Castro, Diaz-Canel becomes Cuba’s youngest president in decades as well as the first Cuban head of state born after the revolution. However, little change can be expected in terms of the official government policy coming from Havana. A close protégé of Raul Castro, Diaz-Canel is known as an ideologue and hardliner. Moreover, when coupled with the increasingly hardline response from both the United States and Canada, which are scaling back their diplomatic presence in Havana, there is not much chance for a major overhaul of the Cuban political or economic system.
Macroeconomics and Political Continuity in Cuba
Today, the Republic of Cuba has a total territory of 110.860 square kilometers, which is somewhat smaller than Pennsylvania. Furthermore, the island nation has a coastline of 3.735 kilometers. Geographically, Cuba consists mainly of rolling plains with some rugged hills and mountains throughout the southeast. Similarly, the country has a tropical climate with seasonal rains and trade winds. Currently, Cuba has a total population of approximately 11.2 million citizens with an average age of 42 years. Likewise, about 77% of the Cuban population lives in an urban setting, notably the capital city of Havana with its almost 2.2 million inhabitants. In economic terms, the country has a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of US$133 billion (PPP), which is divided into 4% agriculture, 22% manufacturing, and 74% services. Moreover, it is estimated that the agricultural industry employs 18% of the national labor force, while manufacturing employs 10% and services employ another 72%. Furthermore, in Cuba, the agriculture industry utilizes 60% of the national territory, while another 27% is forested.
In terms of trade, during 2015, Cuba imported US$6.82 billion worth of goods and exported US$1.4 billion, resulting in a trade deficit of US$5.42 billion. Moreover, the country’s main export, representing 27% or US$378 million of the country’s total in 2015, was raw sugar. Similarly, the country’s main import that same year, representing 3.2% or US$219 million of all international purchases, was poultry meat. Meanwhile, Cuba’s main trading partners are China, Brazil, and the European Union, particularly Spain.
In recent years, the average per capita protein intake of animal origin amongst the Cuban population has been 30 grams daily. Meanwhile, land distribution in Cuba has evolved throughout the last half century. Back in 1961, permanent pastures and meadows in the country covered 1.9 million hectares, while arable land covered 1.45 million hectares and permanent crops accounted for 200.000 hectares. More recently, in 2015, permanent pastures and meadows had increased to account for 2.72 million hectares, while arable land represented almost 3.1 million hectares and permanent crops covered approximately 504.000 hectares.