It’s not a stretch to believe that the folks at the Associated Press would rather not report bad news from that communist workers’ paradise known as Cuba.
Just look at how the wire service has dealt with clearly significant news about the island nation’s economy. Though the news, carried originally at the Miami Herald, is three months old, the AP as best I can tell finally got around to writing a story about it late Friday, the beginning of a summer weekend when few are following the news closely. How convenient.
Here is some of what the Herald’s Juan O. Tamay reported on April 19:
Raúl Castro admits that Cuba has one million excess jobs
The figures on unproductive workers in the government and its enterprises surprised even some Cuban economists.
The stunning figure was revealed by Cuban leader Raúl Castro himself: The Cuban government and its enterprises might have more than one million excess workers on their payrolls.
That’s more than one million unproductive workers, out of what official Cuban figures show is a total of 4.9 million people working in formal jobs in a country of 11.2 million people.
And that’s part of the explanation, several economists said, for a calamitously over-centralized and unproductive economy that, for example, forces a tropical island to import an estimated 60 percent of the food its people consume. The Cuban government has historically insisted on keeping people officially employed, even in unproductive jobs. Unemployment was last reported at 1.6 percent by the National Statistics Office (ONE).
About 95 percent of the jobs in Cuba’s formal sector are with the government — ministries, their agencies and enterprises — though salaries are so low, averaging about $20 a month, nationwide, that many Cubans also have off-the-books work to make ends meet.
But the figures on excess jobs in the government and its enterprises mentioned by Raúl Castro surprised even some Cuban economists.
“We know there’s an excess of hundreds of thousands of workers in the budgeted and enterprise sectors (and) some analysts calculate that the excess of jobs is more than one million,” he said Sunday in a speech to the Cuban Communist Youth.
There are “inflated payrolls, very inflated payrolls, terribly inflated payrolls,” Castro said before adding a reassurance: “The revolution will not forsake anyone. I will fight to create the conditions so that all Cubans have honorable jobs.”
… “All will remain in their jobs, but depending on the possibilities many will be reassigned to useful and productive jobs,” the newspaper noted. “Cuba will never resort to the easy and inhumane formulas of neoliberalism, based on massive dismissals.”
Yeah, making people hang around doing almost nothing all day and paying them $20 a month is far more “humane.” Zheesh.
Even though the news of Raul Castro’s acknowledgment of the size and scope of “overemployment” is is about three months old, the AP either hasn’t covered this story, or it has done so extremely quietly. Various Google News Archive searches covering April through June of this year failed to return any results relating to that one million excess jobs pronouncement (there may be such a story behind the AP’s or other newspapers’ subscription walls, but it seems very unlikely).
Here is some of Ann-Marie Garcia’s July 16 report (bolds after title are mine):
Jobless in Cuba? Communism faces the unthinkable
President Raul Castro has startled the nation lately by saying about one in five Cuban workers may be redundant.
… Here, nearly everyone works for the state and official unemployment is minuscule, but pay is so low that Cubans like to joke that “the state pretends to pay us and we pretend to work.”
Now, facing a severe budget deficit, the government has hinted at restructuring or trimming its bloated work force. Such talk is causing tension, however, in a country where guaranteed employment was a building block of the 1959 revolution that swept Fidel Castro to power.
Details are sketchy on how and when such pruning would take place. Still, acknowledgment that cuts are needed has come from Raul Castro himself.
“We know that there are hundreds of thousands of unnecessary workers on the budget and labor books, and some analysts calculate that the excess of jobs has surpassed 1 million,” said Castro, who replaced his ailing brother Fidel as president nearly four years ago. Cuba’s work force totals 5.1 million, in a population of 11.2 million.
In his nationally televised speech in April, Castro also had harsh words for those who do little to deserve their salaries.
“Without people feeling the need to work to make a living, sheltered by state regulations that are excessively paternalistic and irrational, we will never stimulate a love for work,” he said.
April is “lately” when it’s mid-July? Who knew?
Now the AP can say, “See, see, we covered the story” — even though it appears that its real intent is to keep the news as invisible as possible.