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Welcome to the official website of:

The Association for the Study
of the Cuban Economy-ASCE

2024 ASCE Conference Registration

ASCE’s 34th annual meeting will be held this October 18-20th at the Law School of Florida International University Modesto A. Maidique campus.

- Latest News -

Roger Betancourt

(1943 - 2024)  

Observations from a Visit to Havana

Roberto Orro, January 7, 2024.  

WEBINARS

Watch any of our webinars on our YouTube channel, recordings of ASCE annual meetings, or other ASCE-related events such as Carmelo Mesa Lago's latest lecture at FIU.

PUBLICATIONS

Brouse ASCE's extensive published output over the years, from academic papers to informative newsletters to topical posts.

STUDENT PRIZE

One of the cornerstones of ASCE’s outreach to young scholars is the ASCE Student Prize, which awards the author of the best undergraduate and graduate paper on Cuban economic issues with the following:

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ABOUT US

The Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy (ASCE) is a non-profit non-political organization founded in 1990. Our mission is to study the structure and operation of the Cuban economy, and the processes of transition to a market economy in Cuba; and to promote scholarship, research, and publications by its members.

About Us

Friends of ASCE

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Roger Betancourt
1943 - 2024.     

(Roger Betancourt unexpectedly passed away on April 9 of this year. The historian James Flexner referred to George Washington as America’s “Indispensable Man”. For ASCE Roger was our indispensable man. Without him there would have been no ASCE, many of us would not have become involved in researching Cuba, and I certainly would not be its current president. Below is a tribute to Roger by Luis Luis, his dear friend and long-time ASCE member.  ̶  Luis Locay)

Roger Betancourt

It was with deep sadness that I learned of the passing on April 9 of Roger, a dear friend of nearly seven decades.  We shared friendship, family gatherings, social outings, travels and professional activities.  He was foremost a warm family man with a loving family and marriage of 57 years to Alicia. Roger had a keen interest in the wellbeing of others and boosting endeavors he favored.
 

We first met in Havana at our beloved Colegio de La Salle in 1956 when we started bachillerato, the five-year high school program. I remember quiet and studious Roger seating to my right in our home room in our fourth-year, the last year we completed as the school was closed and the Christian Brothers exiled by the communist regime.  After June 1960 we did not meet again until 1969 as Roger, already married to Alicia and having completed his PhD, joined the economics faculty at the University of Maryland and I began teaching economics at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis.  We forged personal and family bonds and shared professional activities, especially faculty seminars.
 

Roger worked assiduously at Maryland, earning the respect of his peers and students.  He published many articles and seminal books on capital utilization, the economics of retail and distribution and economic development. Much of his work was in applied microeconomics and econometrics and later in his career he became interested in the new institutional economics applied to economic development issues. He was very proud of his work as a dissertation advisor and mentor for graduate students.  He advised dozens of students, propelling their careers and earning lifelong gratitude and friendship.  He had world-wide connections from his students and from research and teaching in far-ranging places such as Sri Lanka and Argentina.  He taught as a vising professor at universities in France, Spain and Turkey among others.  We met during Roger’s visits at INSEAD in Fontainebleau. I warmly recall family beach vacations with Roger and family in Maryland where he regularly beat me at tennis, and their visit to our house in England.  
 

ASCE was Roger’s special endeavor of the last three decades. He was a driving force in the creation and organization of ASCE.  He worked with Cuban-American economists and other professionals mainly in the Washington DC area to design and launch an organization aiming at the study of the Cuban economy in a broad sense and the process of transition to a democratic market economy.  ASCE was incorporated in the State of Maryland in August 1990.  The agreement establishing ASCE was signed at Roger’s house, and he became its first President. With help from friends, Roger had come up with the articles of incorporation. He brought up the idea of setting up a professional organization rather than just a think tank or purely research outfit.  He was concerned that the new association would be inclusive regarding research and analysis as well as membership with a diverse professional background.  To his credit Roger was one of the few academic economists involved in the foundation of ASCE.  Washington is after all a city of economists who mostly work for governmental and international offices and agencies.

In December 1990 ASCE, as proposed by Roger, was affiliated with the Allied Social Science Associations operating under the aegis of the American Economic Association.  This allowed ASCE to have a session during the annual meetings of the AEA.  Roger attended these meetings usually as presenter or commentator.  Behind the scenes he helped recruit participants and searched for interesting papers to be presented.  He was actively involved in persuading the AEA to maintain ASCE’s session at the annual meetings.
 

During the more than the three decades’ life of ASCE Roger was crucial in stimulating leadership of the association and was in its nominating committee which initiated the election process for the executive board and president.  Roger’s charm and seriousness of purpose was invaluable in attracting many of the outstanding presidents and board members of the Association.  Roger while a close follower of events in the Cuban economy preferred to direct his research to conceptual issues.  For example, he wrote papers on the distribution and transition processes that were broadly applicable to transition economies. Roger participated in every one of the annual meetings of ASCE in 1991-2022 as commentator, presenter or chairing panels.
 

Roger kept his keen interest on ASCE as he actively worked this year with the nominating committee.  He remained active as well in many other projects.  His sharp mind, for example, focused on comparative statistical analysis of the COVID pandemic gauging results of public health policies across developed and developing countries.  In the last year Roger was working on a new book on economic development which applied his unique knowledge and research on production, distribution and institutional development.
 

Roger will be missed greatly by his friends and colleagues in ASCE.  I offer deep condolences to Alicia, Roger Alberto, Juan Luis and grandchildren for the loss of a loving husband, father and grandfather.

 

Luis R. Luis

April 12, 2024

betencourt
Letter...

Observations from a Visit to Havana
-
Roberto Orro, January 7, 2024.     

I have recently returned from a seven-day trip to Cuba, and I want to share with you my main observations and impressions. I will focus on facts, so you can draw your own conclusions.    

   

Regarding the famous Mipymes, they have undoubtedly filled a gap in the retail network. Now you can buy many food products that were missing last year, of course, at astronomical prices that are unaffordable for many Cubans. In general, the nutritional situation is better than in the early 90s when many Cubans were close to total starvation, but it is getting worse and worse. The rationing system is phasing out, but the market is still far from compensating for the critical shortage of rationed products like rice, beans, and sugar.    

   

Many questions remain on how Mipymes get the “divisas” (foreign exchange) that they need. Private restaurants accept payments in US dollars and Cuban pesos.  The only way for Cubans to buy US dollars is in the informal market. Interestingly, I encountered a mechanic who preferred payment in Cuban pesos, proof that in some circles the national currency has made strides. Importers, which now are another group veiled in secrecy, only accept foreign exchange. Thus, many Cubans believe that some top officials are involved (as owners) in the Mipymes business. Anyway, many dots are unconnected yet in this unofficial chain of import-distribution-sales.    

   

The link between inflation and the public deficit is straightforward. The government pays most salaries, but public revenue has fallen. I don’t believe that salaries will keep up with such insane prices for very long, and with the government retail network in retreat, I do not anticipate a correction in the market exchange rate, US dollar/CUP. In fact, I heard that GAESA’s retail sales have dramatically fallen, which appears to have been caused by the demise of Lopez Callejas and the migration of government officials to private businesses.    

   

Cuban infrastructure is in its worst condition ever, with no solution in sight. Transportation is a headache. Streets resemble a lunar landscape. Garbage collection is awful, and garbage can be seen pouring out of dumpsters onto sidewalks and streets. The shortage of medical supplies and medicines is critical.  Education and healthcare now top the list of problems.    

   

Public transportation barely exists, but now you can see luxury private cars in Cuba. I even saw a Tesla. How do these luxury cars get into the country? It is somewhat of a mystery, and there are many rumors about high-ranking officials running the car-import business.    

   

Access to the internet, WhatsApp and mobile phones has significantly increased. Now, Cubans wake up and check Cibercuba every morning. The government has completely lost its ideological grip, but this change has not translated yet into an effective force of political pressure. This time I didn’t see anyone giving the traditional talks (teques y muelas) on the Revolution’s achievements and benefits. Nobody is guarded when criticizing the government. Of course, public announcements of further increases in gasoline, power, and other prices have stirred a great deal of anxiety and irritation in the population.    

   

The decline in the number of tourists in Havana is noticeable--nothing like what I saw in 2016 when the streets were filled with vintage cars driving tourists throughout the city. A taxi driver told me that security conditions have also deteriorated, and some tourists have been assaulted and robbed in Old Havana. Again, that is what I heard.    

   

Despite this dire picture, a small group of people are enjoying a high standard of living. Social and racial inequality, whose elimination was supposed to be one of the main goals of the Revolution, is now a critical problem (shameful and embarrassing). You don’t need any statistics to conclude that the small and privileged group consists mostly of well-connected white people, with easy access to foreign exchange; while the majority of Cubans, (mostly mestizo and black people) are hopelessly trapped in poverty.    

   

To top it all off, the torrent of people (mostly working age and their children) leaving the island continues unabated. At this pace, only seniors will remain in Cuba for a few years.    

   

Well, I leave you to draw your own conclusions. Nevertheless, it seems to me that Cuba faces a very uncertain future, with a catastrophic scenario not outside the realm of possibility.  

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