HAVANA — It took the passage of Irma, that demon in a black wedding dress, to remove any doubt of the importance that Cuba has placed on tourism.
Look at what happened in the northern keys and Varadero, creating a controversy between the authorities, who say that all damages will be repaired by the so-called high season, and others, who expect that the magnitude of the disaster will not allow it. It’s the eternal struggle between the optimists and the pessimists. Or, as I repeat on occasion, between those who invented the airplane and those who invented the parachute.
Even though the number of damaged or destroyed homes is not yet official, the authorities announced a 50-percent discount in the price of construction materials, plus other benefits in banking transactions that will be offered to the victims. A good decision.
Irma arrived at a bad economic moment. The State knows this well. Maybe this would be the most appropriate moment to eliminate the 10-percent exchange fee for one U.S. dollar. The first ones to say thanks would be the future visitors.
Other measures could fit the future ahead. To make the creation of small and mid-size foreign-funded businesses more viable and less bureaucratic. To allow our small businesses to import. To extend the Cuban passport’s duration to 10 years and to reduce its cost (it is the most expensive in the world.)
What would the political power lose with these and other decisions? Better expressed: How much would it gain in terms of real political support?
And although Customs is almost always the agency blamed for the broken dishes and is upbraided for decisions it did not make, it should increase its flexibility in taxing small but necessary imports, such as those needed to re-start a home.
Many of the possible solutions to palliate the crisis will not be expressions of solidarity with, or interest in Cuba, but they must express our own ability to make decisions on the spot, rather than file them away for the next economic or meteorological hurricane. Or both together, in a rare symphony.