Cuba Report Card on the UN Millennium Development Goals

April 4, 2013 | Print Print |

Fernando Ravsberg*

Some of the UN Millennium Development Goals were already social achievements in Cuba. Photo: Raquel Perez

HAVANA TIMES — I read in the Cuban press that the island has already met the “Millennium Development Goals,” set by the UN with a target for 2015. I didn’t pay too much attention to the article; I figured it was more of the optimism that characterizes the official media here.

However, a few days later my curiosity was aroused when I came across statements by the Secretary-General of the United Nations concerning these accomplishments. I then took on the task of putting Cuba through the filter with respect to those goals.

I tried to go beyond the official statistics, and found UNICEF’s assurance that there’s no child malnutrition in Cuba, which is a sure sign of its addressing “hunger or extreme poverty,” the first of the Millennium Development Goals.

My walks through the countryside have allowed me to meet Cubans who live without electricity, and I’ve visited more than one shantytown. But I must admit, in Cuba I’ve never seen the destitution and abject poverty of that in the slums of Uruguay, in the Mayan communities of Mexico, or in the streets of Rio.

Wages are lower than those proposed in the Millennium Development Goals, but these are compensated for with free and subsidized services, including health care, education, food allocations, transportation, telephone service, water and home repair goods and services.

They also created a system of Social Security that dedicates its resources to funding retiree diners and providing clothing, furniture and cleaning supplies to at-risk families and maintaining temporary shelters for orphans.

The protection policy for minors without parental protection is precisely one of the reasons why there are no street children here. In all my years in Cuba, I’ve never run into a youngster sleeping in a park or in a doorway.

The UN proposes “universal primary education,” something that Cuba achieved many years ago, extending this mandatorily to the ninth grade…and education benefits children living in the remotest of mountains.

One can debate for hours about the quality of the teaching, its material problems and the training of teachers – I’ve written about all this. But it would be foolish to deny the success represented by the fact that all Cuban children go to school.

For many years, all children in Cuba have attended school. Photo: Raquel Perez

Speaking of teaching, another of the objectives is that girls have access to school for there to be advancement towards “gender equality and the empowerment of women” through their professional training and their incorporation into the workforce.

In Cuba the figures speak for themselves. Women are half of the population but make up 63 percent of university enrollment. In the sphere of work, between 1970 and 2008 the number of women supervisors grew seven times and the number of female technicians multiplied by six (1).

And this isn’t just from Cuban data. The World Economic Forum ranks Trinidad-Tobago and Cuba as the Latin American countries with the greatest degree of gender equity – ranking far ahead of Colombia, Brazil and Mexico.(2)

The fourth millennium objective is Cuban health care’s greatest success story: “Reducing child mortality.” On the island, less than five children die per one thousand live births – a rate comparable to only a few developed countries.

Likewise, an issue that goes hand in hand with this is “improving maternal health,” another area where encouraging results have been achieved. Pregnant women receive free and on-going medical care starting in the first month of their pregnancy.

Not long ago I did a story that reflects that entire system, from maternity homes (where women confronting risky pregnancies stay for extended periods) to neonatal clinics (specialized in attending to the most difficult cases).

Combating HIV/AIDS and Malaria” is another one of the global targets. Cuba is one of a few countries where all virus carriers have access to an anti-retroviral treatment, known here as a “cocktail.”

Cuban laboratories produce generic packets of the medication, which are provided for free at neighborhood pharmacies. Thanks to this, in recent years the numbers of AIDS patients and deaths have declined substantially.

Those patients have permanent outpatient care, which allows them to lead normal lives. Where women are carriers of the virus, they can even bear healthy children (3) under the care of specialized doctors.

The need for changes in Cuba is something agreed upon by citizens, dissidents, exiles and even the government itself. But whatever the future society, the Millennium Development Goals already achieved should be protected as one of the greatest treasures of the nation.

(1) Oficina Nacional de Estadisticas (Oficina Nacional de Estadísticas.)

(*) An authorized translation by Havana Times (from the Spanish original) published by BBC Mundo.

What's your opinion?

  • Unwelcome_Truth

    It’s a matter for mild congratulations that F. Ravsberg, a professional anti-socialist working for the British sub-imperial regime’s international propaganda outlet, was able to bring himself eventually to admit the facts he was unable to deny about Cuba’s successes in human development. So, one faint cheer for Mr Ravsberg.

    What’s more, on this occasion the information in his article should be considered reliable, since its conclusions go directly against Mr Ravsberg’s very evident hostile preconceptions.

    Just consider how obvious Mr Ravsberg makes his bias. To title his piece he first appoints himself Cuba’s teacher so as to give it a “report card.” This is typical of Mr Ravsberg’s smugly patronising, relentlessly self-adoring style, and he starts as he means to go on.

    Immediately he admits — or rather, complacently boasts — to making the a priori assumption that the Cuban media reports about the Millennium Development Goals were lies, even though they were not. That egregious stupidity shows off not just Mr Ravsberg’s vicious bias, but also the intellectual laziness and unselfconscious egotism that enable him to sneer at Cuban journalists from a posture of imagined superiority even when, as here, they were quite obviously right and he was wrong and incompetent.

    Mr Ravsberg remained secure in his bigoted delusion until jolted out of it by reading of the praise for Cuba’s development from UN Secretary-General Ban, a respected figure for bourgeois journalism as a prize imperial trusty. Only then, Mr Ravsberg admits, did he bother to find out the facts for himself.

    Even after discovering that he was wrong about Cuba’s human development record, Mr Ravsberg still can’t bring himself to be very gracious about it. Delivering his A+ report card, he still has to preface the prize-giving with a hostile homily against the Cuban social system, including a special extra sneer for the government whose achievements he is obliged to acknowledge.

    The deeper point about Mr Ravsberg’s wretched journalism is that he isn’t new to Cuba by any means, so it’s especially telling that his preconceptions about Cuba’s human development achievements were so out of touch with reality.

    If Mr Ravsberg really were the open-minded, observant and objective journalist he is always telling us he is, he would have had a correct impression of human development in Cuba based on his own experience of the country, instead of the falsely unfavourable impression he had erected on a base of sheer ignorance and hostility to the truth told by the Cuban journalists he despises so vaingloriously.

    But Mr Ravsberg is instead the perfect BBC correspondent: he has in full the smug arrogance, the ingrained hostility to socialism and the spurious pseudo-objectivity that are the trademarks of that particular right wing propaganda channel and that distinguish its brand among the world’s major government and corporate propaganda factories.

  • Moses Patterson

    Hitler made the trains in Germany run on time. So what? Even despots are capable of doing something right. Do the achievements singled out for praise above justify the otherwise deplorable living conditions in Cuba? Not if you measure it by the 7 ballet dancers who just a week ago sought their fortunes in US. Or the thousands of balseros who every year risk it all to cross the Florida straits. I guess these Cubans did not get the memo regarding the good life-Castro style. These accomplishments, viewed in the context of the entire picture of the hell that the Castros have wrought, pale by comparison.

    • Moses follows the same line of bulshit as usual, If you imply that the Castros have wrought hell, by the same line of logic you imply that the Pre-1959 Cuba was a functioning democracy. I’ll just let the rest of your logic throw your case into the wter

      • Moses Patterson

        Kian, I imply no such thing. Cuba went from pre-1959 ‘bad’ to Castro’s hell of ‘worse’. Cubans ‘escape’, ‘defect’ and ‘abandon’ Cuba daily. That says it all.

        • Every year about 30,000 Cubans emigrate to the U.S out of a population of 11 million.

          Every year some 75,000 Jamaicans emigrate to the U.S. out of a population of 3 million.

          Relative poverty is the reason in both cases.

          Since Cuba released ALL its political prisoners a year or two ago, its emigration figures cannot be pinned on political oppression can they ?

          • Griffin

            Cuba did not release all their political prisoners. There are still many in jail, including those who were jailed under trumped up criminal charges. The regime continues to carry out short term detentions, some 400 of them last month alone.

            Furthermore, the government continues to deny the people basic freedoms and human rights such as free speech.

        • CassandraSays

          No that doesn’t say it all, Moses. I seem to recall a time when 1 million draft age Americans abandoned the U.S. Were you around then?

          The south nations are flooding to any of the north nations they can get to — they are following the money that is suctioned out of their economies. To suppose that admiration for U.S. elections is a factor . . . well, words fail me.

          • Moses Patterson

            Check your 1 million number again. It’s a little high by 950,000 or more. That “suction” you speak about is facilitated by their corrupt governments. The more stable the government, regardless of economic standing, the more likely the people stay.

    • Lies of omission are lies nonetheless.

      You and I know that what you posted is a lie but I can only suppose that you are being paid by some U.S. agency or counter-revolutionary group in Florida and so feel compelled to post bullshit to denigrate Cuba.

      About the balseros:

      Why do some Cubans risk their lives in attempting to cross the Florida Straits to come to the U.S. ?
      It’s a question all gusanos must assiduously avoid including in their screeds and you are certainly no exception.

      Just to show those not knowledgeable about what makes you a liar, I will once again go over some background that you never mention.

      1) Back over 50 years ago the GOUSA instituted an economic, terrorist and propaganda war against the people of Cuba and the purpose of that continuing war was clearly stated by GOUSA officials: to make life so difficult for the people of Cuba ( not the government leaders whom they tried to assassinate) that they would rise up and overthrow their revolution.

      Of course that war /embargo/bloquero has caused severe economic hardships for all the Cuban people as intended and for that reason among others, many Cubans wish to emigrate to the U.S , the wealthiest country in the world .

      There are two ways to get to the U.S. if you are a Cuban.: legally or illegally .

      To get to the U.S legally , a Cuban must apply to the U.S. Interests Section in Cuba where they must pay a huge fee (for Cubans) and then wait EIGHTEEN months for an up or down decision on their application which in MOST cases is refused.

      Of course WERE political and societal conditions in Cuba so oppressive that Cubans were suffering horribly, it would be the moral thing for the U.S to take in as many of these people suffering the horrors of “communism” as they could but rather than grant them legal entry through the USIS, they instead passed the Cuban Adjustment Act ( a meaningless euphemism for public consumption by the dumbed-down people of the U.S. ) an intrinsic part of which is the “wet foot, dry foot” clause .
      This clause states that any Cuban ( and Cubans alone) who can float onto dry U.S. soil is automatically granted admission to the country .

      So on one hand the GOUSA has made life as hard as possible on all the Cubans and then limited legal access to emigration when they try to get out and simultaneously have declared that any Cuban willing to risk his/her/ the children’s lives by taking to unsafe craft to cross the Florida Straits will be granted AUTOMATIC admission to the U.S.

      As I have said before, were the “wet foot, dry foot” clause of the CAA applied to all poverty stricken capitalist countries in the Caribbean and Latin America, you would be able to walk to the United States across the decks of all the boats and rafts heading for Florida .

  • Griffin

    The statistics mentioned in the article sound very nice and reflect the official Cuban stance on their system. Statistics are only as good as the providence of the data. The data on Cuba in the UN Human Development Index study were provided by the Cuban government. No independent surveys were permitted by the Cuban government. Therefore we are left to take the Cuban government’s word for it that these figures are accurate and honest. I am not so naive.

    The UNHDI did not include data on freedom, democracy or the protection of human rights in the surveyed countries. Other organizations have studied Cuba on those issues and rank them near the bottom in all respects.

    Therefore, we are left to accept the word of a government that has for 55 years denied the basic right of freedom of speech to their people that everything is fine and dandy on the island.

    One interesting set of data, on page 175 of the published study, presents the opinions of citizens on such topics as “Overall life Satisfaction”, “Satisfaction with freedom of choice” and “Trust in national government”. Not surprisingly, there is no data provided by Cuba for those questions. Clearly, those are questions the Cuban regime does not wish to hear asked of the Cuban people.

    The whole exercise is nothing more than another Potemkin Village.

  • Griffin, majority of the cubans in cuba want change, but their goal is not to implement the broken and institutionally corrupt system of the U.S, von mises and the whole “lassiez fare” bullshit is a relic of the 19th century. Cubans are not looking for austerity, Cuba does not want to become Puerto Rico or dominican Republic. Thank you Griffin for caring so much about “Freedom” of the cuban people. But frankly the only ones taking the trash you write seriously are the extreme right winh cubans in miami. Go Home Griffin

  • Michael N. Landis

    I don’t know, Unwelcome…, I think Fernando Ravsberg has made many astute observations and valid criticisms of the Revolution; like me, I feel he wants the Revolution to succeed, but this will only happen if the Revolution changes and becomes more democratic. After a half-century, it is time–in fact time is long past–for the Party to allow greater diffusion of power and popular initiative in the governing process. At this point the Revolution has produced several generations who are politically shrewd and knowledgable. Unlike most Northamerican workers who, being bamboozled by the media, consistently vote against their economic interests, I have faith that most Cubans will vote their class interests (as exemplified by Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Brazil, Argentina, etc., who have all turned out the broken neo-liberalism system once offered by the U.S.A. as the solution). In the choice between the (essentially undemocratic) Chinese model and the more social democratic model, I hope the Cubans choose the latter, of course. Nevertheless, it is their choice to make; not ours.

    • Thanks for a really good post.
      I agree with every point in it.

  • Pingback: Anti-Capitalist Meetup: The Pope’s Possible Future Role in Cuba | garden variety democratic socialist()

  • CassandraSays

    The CIA uses Cuban statistics. Pro-Cuban bias?