Thursday, June 09, 2005

Cuba's decline: By the numbers

The disastrous "progress" that Cuba has experienced over the past 40-50 years, during its "pretty revolution", can be quantified. The following figures are attributed to UN, FAO, and UNESCO sources and tell it all. A catastrophic decline in living standards, productivity, healthcare, and income -- all attributable directly to the Great Leader, F. Castro himself, beloved icon of the dreaming revolutionary left (see table below).

Interestingly, there has been no tradeoff for Cubans: they have not received better living conditions in exchange for less freedom or greater freedom in exchange for worse living conditions. Instead, they have received the worst of both worlds. They suffer their ignominious, imposed poverty in conditions of oppression, in a police state that negates civil liberties, where freedom of expression and political activity are remote dreams, where an arbitrary legal system means that anything you do or say can be held against you at the whim of the dictator and his minions.

A rather obvious question following from the information is: How daft would you have to be to emulate such an economic/political model? Very daft indeed, I should say. It is simply incomprehensible to me that a leader could choose the worst role model instead of the best as an example for his country to follow. Unless, of course, that leader does not have the best interests of his fellow citizens at heart at all, but rather follows personal goals of his own, such as power, money, and recognition from revolutionary has-beens in Cuba and some European circles. I am still not decided on whether Venezuela's Chávez is malevolent or merely deluded, or perhaps a dangerous mixture of both. But about one thing there can be no doubt: He is putting Venezuela on a seriously wrong track and needs to be stopped.

Here are the figures that describe Cuba's decline:

Population in million inhabitants
1959: 6
2004: 12

Per capita income, $ per year
1959: 1200
2004: 70

Telephones per 100 inhabitants
1959: 15
2004: 3,5

Electricity consumption per capita, watts
1959: 450
2004: 75

Consumption of calories, calories per inhabitant and day
1959: 2800
2004: 1100

Meat consumption, pounds per inhabitant and year
1959: 76
2004: 12

Consumption of eggs, units per inhabitant and year
1959: 47
2004: 13

Consumption of chickens, pounds per inhabitant and year
1959: 12
2004: 5

Number of cars per 1000 inhabitants
1959: 38
2004: 10

1 city bus per ... inhabitants
1959: 300
2004: 25000

1 intercity bus per ... inhabitants
1959: 2000
2004: 35000

Number of televisions per 1000 inhabitants
1959: 66
2004: 15

Number of TV stations
1959: 7 (2 in colour)
2004: 2

1 medical doctor per ... inhabitants
1959: 950
2004: 750

1 dentist per ... inhabitants
1959: 2100
2004: 1850

Head of cattle, million
1959: 6
2004: 1,8

Rate of inflation, percent per year
1959: 1,8
2004: 25

Number of newspapers
1959: 18
2004: 2 (no dailies)

Number of tourists per year
1959: 750.000
2004: 1.200.000

Sugar harvest, million tons
1959: 7
2004: 1,8


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post, will try to have it circulate!

Miguel O.

6:06 am  
Anonymous Dennis said...

I commented your post here.

12:17 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you should include the sources for this. Why don't you link to the original data?

2:09 pm  
Anonymous Juan Paxety said...

Great work, but I question the electricity figures - is the measurement really watts, or should it be kilowatts (the more standard measure)?
I'll be linking to you.

2:22 pm  
Blogger Howarde said...

As more and more Blogs and Websites spring up, researching the facts about Cuba will become even more interesting. For example, 46% of pregnant women going to the hospital are malnourished. Cuba's healthcare, it seems, was unware of the importance of Iodized salt and only began importing it a couple of years ago! Imagine? How can you tout the importance of healthcare and be ignorant of Iodized Salt?

If they would permit individual farmers to raise milk cows and sell the milk, they would not have to cut off children at the age of two from drinking milk. The herds would increase dramatically, with a little privatization. What is most apparent in Cuba is the Equality of the Poverty, little else.

The Cuban peso is the only currency not convertible in any other currency in the World. Castro issues play or phony money to pay his worker/slaves!

When you talk about Cuba with senseless Liberals, know your facts, the executions, the imprisonments, the torture cells. Also stress that Cuba under fidelito has regressed almost 100 years, ploughing with oxen, horse and wagons for transpoortation (spelling intentional), a pay scale that were Cuba's nationalized store shelves full, people could not afford what they had to offer. Then cite the fact that girls can earn higher marks in school by a little sexual cooperation. Or that children work in the cane fields...without pay. Not even a weekly allowance!

What about skateboards per 1000 kids? Now that's something our young people would understand, or surf-boards on an island surrouned by ocean? Or water-skiing? Or is that all Uncle Sam's fault as well?

3:28 am  
Blogger Fausta said...

Excellent post. Please do link to the sources. It'll be worthwhile.

4:09 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Instead of repeating the numbers given by the US department of State, would you please give us the UN, FAO and IMF reports that show these numbers?
Obviously there are other reports that contradict your numbers:

Please have the criteria to sort the propaganda from the facts...

4:36 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What an excellent example of spin (and I say this has someone who has worked in communications for many years). I'm not an expert in egg consumption, so I can't comment on that data, but I do know that some of your data on the medical situation is wrong. You might want to check the numbers against other sources and see if you can get consistency.

As for the data overall, for the average Cuban, living standards have been the same or better in many ways. Do not forget that before the 1950s many Cubans did not know how to read and poverty was severe, lack of shoes and running water (as opposed to a lack of game systems -which by the way do exist in Cuba).

Cuba has clearly been hit hard by the decline of the USSR and American economic attacks/embargoes, etc. But to compare Cuba to the US is just silly. Look at it's geography, population, natural resources, etc. If not for its Government Cuba would be like Haiti, not the US.

A small fraction of Cubans (those loyal to the puppet dictator Batista) did so well and were so rich that that they skew the overall data on averages.

As for Chavez, he is probably one of the most visionary leaders in power today and, in my opinion, is a wonderful asset to Venezuela.

5:44 pm  
Blogger John said...

Thanks to all for your comments. I have been taking a closer look at some of the data I posted, something I should have done before posting. There are discrepancies between it and other data posted on the Internet, too large to be explained by statistical margins of error. Some of the data, as some of my posters have commented, is incorrectly given: for instance, annual per capita electricity consumption should be given in kWh, certainly not in watts. Other data is implausible, such as stating an annual per capital income for Cuba less than one twenty-fifth that of Sudan's, for instance. These are things I should have picked up on.

My source of the data was an anonymous e-mail that was forwarded to me by an acquaintance I consider reliable. In the e-mail, the data was attributed, as stated in my posting, to "UN, FAO, and UNESCO" sources (which I would also consider reliable). As I don't have any 1959 yearbooks from these organisations lying around, I cannot check the original source (I don't have the current editions either, for that matter). If any of my readers do have them, please post what information you are able to glean from them.

The data in the e-mail was further attributed to Manuel Cereijo, who is one of the contributors to the site The statistics I quoted appear to have been taken from the page Cereijo also attributes the data to UN etc. sources, but without providing any further detail.

Interestingly, the figures Cereijo provides differ in some instances from the ones I read in the e-mail; the latter correspond to those given on the webpage at, of which I was not aware when I posted the article. It looks like someone has been manipulating the figures to make the situation in Cuba look even worse than it already is.

In this sense, I must agree with poster #8 ("Anonymous") that this appears to be an "excellent example of spin". Obviously, though, I do not concur with his/her other positions ("Chávez... visionary leader... wonderful asset").

In any case, I hereby apologise to all those who took the information I posted at face-value, as I did. The Internet is a wonderful thing, but sometimes it is too easy to use.

Obtaining reliable figures for Cuba is difficult. This example has shown that some in the anti-Castro camp will spin the information to present their case in a favourable light. Similarly, the Cuban government (and its first-world admirers such as the Australian Green Left) are hardly a wellspring of objective information. After the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe, the extent to which data was manipulated in all the Soviet satellite countries became apparent (much to the horror of Western investors). I have no doubt that the same will happen when Cuba's dictatorship bites the dust and the economic reckoning begins to take place. I hope that that will also mark the day when Cubans will flock back to Cuba instead of trying desperately to escape from the island.

In addition to Castro's murders and oppression, one of his greatest legacies of evil are the lost decades of economic and democratic development that he has imposed on Cubans. Who is to say that Cuba today would not be more similar to Chile than to Haiti were it not for the geriatric tyrant?

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