Cuba is an island country located in the Caribbean Sea, off of the coast of Mexico and the United States of America. Cuba is made up of one large island and several chains of smaller islands. The island is one of the largest to be found in the Caribbean covering a staggering 44,400 square miles and has a population of over 11 million people. The currency of Cuba is somewhat unique in that it has a dual currency. It uses both convertible pesos (referred to sometimes as dollars) and the national peso which can make it confusing for tourists. The Cuba economy is in almost total control of the government and so there is little room for it to manoeuvre and grow.
Sugar Production in Early Cuba
With such a large land mass it comes as no surprise that the island was used for sugar production from the 16th century until the 19th century. As well as the production of sugar, the Cuba economy at this time was also sustained by the export of tobacco, coffee and mined raw materials. After the decline of the sugarcane trade, Cuba's economy hit hard times and it remained this way right up until the Cuban Revolution in 1959. At this time the country experienced an increase in economic growth yet this did not last and the Cuba economy was on the decline again by 1985.
Government Control of Cuba Economy
One of the differences between the Cuba economy and those of most other Caribbean countries is that the government of Cuba controls most of the economic functioning of the country. Many sectors of industry are state-controlled and there is little in the way of foreign investment, business and even less in the way of private enterprise. This also means that the majority of the labour force is employed by the government; estimates currently state that 78% of the labour force is employed by the government, with as little as 22% of people employed in the private sector. Unbelievably perhaps, this percentage for the private sector is actually an increase on former years.
Growth of Tourism & Professional Services
One area that has allowed a slow increase in growth in Cuba's economy is tourism. The country has seen its share of the Caribbean tourism trade almost triple since the latter half of the 1990s. In the early 2000s the number of tourists visiting the country was just under 2 million, with visitors mainly coming from the United States and Canada. This is an area of the country's economy that certainly has room for expansion and can contribute to the stability of the economy.
Another area in which Cuba is flourishing is in the export of professional services. The likes of medical personnel, such as doctors and nurses, are finding work in the country of Venezuela, creating hard revenue for their home country. Cuba also benefits from "medical tourism", where inhabitants of other countries cross the border into Cuba to seek sufficient and relatively advanced medical care.
With such a turbulent history it is not really surprising that the Cuba economy is somewhat stagnant. The present government is slowly considering reforms that may help to boost the economy slightly, but it looks as though the Cuban economy is set to be unstable for many years to come, as it is this same government that is continually holding the economy back.