By Jorge Gómez Barata
In the global society, particularly in emerging countries, a highly skilled workforce is increasingly important. The economies characterized by dynamism, high growth rates and protection against crises incorporate new scientific evidence, allow subleasing and foster the installation of business facilities that seek sites where skilled labor is available at the best prices, qualified personnel is exported and technologies and high value-added goods are created.
Currently, the countries that bet most heavily on development are advancing in several directions: import substitution, promotion of high-tech areas, attraction of foreign investment, development of infrastructures and introduction of technology and science in industry and agriculture.
These efforts, and the policies that define them, begin with the training of human resources. The most profitable investment is man, a fact that makes the universities the start of the skein.
Under these projections, in less than two decades, poor countries that once endured famines, such as China, India and Vietnam, have become prosperous nations, exporting food, machinery, appliances, textiles, technology and skilled labor.
It should be noted that these and other countries benefited from external financing in the form of loans from international institutions and direct foreign investment attracted by lenient laws, lower costs of labor, easier access to expanding domestic markets, an abundance of qualified personnel and acceptable infrastructures. All that was complemented by domestic stability.
These nations assumed a conscious idea that problems cannot be solved at once, that development implies costs and creates social tensions. One way or another, they adopted the often-criticized but basically successful pragmatism of Deng Xioaoping.
By virtue of the U.S. economic blockade, which prevents access to credit sources and markets, annuls the potential for technological transfer, forbids the establishment on the island of not only U.S. companies but also companies worldwide, Cuba is excluded from the global economy.
These dynamics also are influenced by the state-run nature of the Cuban economy, the doctrine for the treatment of foreign capital and the exclusion, for political or ideological reasons, of potential actors, mainly the Cubans who live abroad.
Nevertheless, overcoming these and other challenges, including the excessive centralization that places any decision at the highest levels of the government hierarchy, the bureaucracy that piles up procedures on top of procedures, and elements of corruption that have begun to appear, the Cuban economic performance reflects some of the best features of emerging economies.
As it happens in China, India and other countries with advanced economies, Cuba’s greatest economic successes are achieved on the basis of advances in the areas of the most advanced technologies, i.e., genetic engineering, biotechnology, medicine, including the most complex specialties, while waiting for the takeoff of sectors such as software production.
The island’s economy also benefits from the export of technical services such as doctors and other health professionals, land surveyors, engineers and architects, sports coaches and other high-profile professions.
As part of the social work of the Revolution, Cuba has developed an effective and comprehensive system of higher education that allows the nation to use the facilities and teachers to train professionals in virtually all areas, especially doctors, engineers, architects, nurses, veterinarians, agricultural technicians, sports coaches, and art teachers, to meet not only Cuba’s needs but also the needs of other countries.
For countries that cannot create medical schools, engineering or architecture schools and computer-science universities short-term, the economically advantageous access to Cuban institutions may be an option. They may also create better facilities so that, as part of state projects or individually, Cuban professionals may accept employment abroad.
The Sixth Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba, which will decide on strategies for the country’s development and will be attended by about 1,000 delegates, mostly economics experts, will surely delve deeply into all issues and consider in detail the ways and means to reintegrate Cuba into the global economy despite the U.S. blockade, take advantage of globalization, combine national and individual interests and move towards development. Let’s meet there.
Jorge Gómez Barata, a Cuban journalist, lives in Havana.