The Future of Cuba Lies in Asia

Alberto N Jones

Singapore

HAVANA TIMES — A month after having embarked on an unforgettable 20-day trip to Singapore, Thailand, Hong Kong and Vietnam, I managed to react to the overwhelming experience of seeing so much progress, order, perspective and vision in a region, which is where the world seems to be heading.

Tiny Singapore, which has managed to earn itself the nickname of “Asian Tiger” within half a century, is a case the world needs to study, analyze and evaluate, with its political and ideological differences, wise moves and mistakes.

Just like Cuba, its independence and national sovereignty began in 1959.  Barely 100 km2, without any natural resources and a population of 5.3 million people, 42% of whom are immigrants, it formed a federation with Malaysia which then disintegrated two years later due to different ideological, ethnic and religious problems.

Singapore continues to follow a free market economy policy based on foreign investment, funding, maritime shipping, tourism and health with strong education, social security, mass housing projects, discipline and respect for the environment, where violating this can be severely punished by law.

Singapore

There’s no doubt about it, Singapore is a reference country within the region. Many researchers and analysts have concluded that Cuba could be the “Singapore” of the Caribbean, in spite of having experienced different political movements, ideology and economic policies and having been the victim of a hardline US-backed blockade and military attacks over the past half a century.

I won’t go into the great progress Thailand made with its industrial developments, sex and leisure businesses, or Hong Kong, the Asian financial giant.

However, no country within the region (and maybe even in the world) would be a better example of what back-breaking work, political vision, sacrifice and overcoming their hate and resentment towards China, Japan, France and the US who colonized, oppressed them and bled them dry, can do which has allowed this country to be the most vibrant and thriving within the region today.

Cuba and Vietnam have similar climates, a similar history and patriotic spirit.  Marti spoke about these people over a hundred years ago and his vision espressed in prose is still valid today.  “El Milagro Vietnamita” (The Vietnamese Miracle) published by Dr. Juan Triana Cordovi on OnCuba in November 2016, lays out the foundations and reasons of this impressive progress in an irrefutable way.

Vietnam

With the United States’ brutal invasion and the embarrasing fall of Saigon in 1975 over, it was important for me to visit the old presidential palace and the South Vietnamese puppet government’s bunker as it was to visit the room where the reunification of the country was signed in 1976, which led to Saigon being renamed Ho Chi Ming city.

The central government in Hanoi nationalized every company, it established agricultural collectivization and introduced restrictions which stifled progress and led to unprecedented hunger and a mass exodus on foot, by air and by sea who were then called “Vietnamese boat people”.

The 5th Communist Party Congress introduced radical changes, putting leaders over 60 years old in retirement, even national hero Vo Nguyen Giap and, later, the Party’s own Secretary General Le Duan and president Troung Chan was replaced by Nguyen Van Linh, who reduced the State’s participation in the country’s non-basic industries, freed agriculture, minimized taxes and regulations, encouraged foreign investment and promoted a capitalist market economy, which didn’t affect the socialist political nature of the country.

These and other economic and social reforms which were introduced have transformed Vietnam over the past 20 years into the fastest developing country in Asia with GDP growth at 8-9% per year and a lower level of poverty from 70% in 1980 to a shocking 10% today.

Vietnam

None of this is to say that social problems don’t still endure in Vietnam. Social inequality has increased, corruption continues even though it is severely punished and vast areas of the country still haven’t been cleared of unexploded bombs, which continue to result in painful deaths.

In spite of this, indescribable agricultural progress has converted Vietnam into the world’s second leading producer of rice, coffee, flowers and other areas, the abundance of food is unparalled, rivers and lakes are protected with bamboo, fish farming and sea transport is vast, while every ground floor apartment in city buildings has been converted into a business, giving jobs to millions of people, free from coercion and heavy taxes.

The urban development of cities such as Halang Bay, Da Nang, Ho Chi Ming and Hanoi, which could compete with any other capital in the world, transcend your imagination when you see thousands of skyscrapers with 50, 60, 80 and more floors. It was the greatest concentration of equipment and machinery that I have ever seen in my life, building highways, drawbridges, tunnels, railways, sea terminals, leisure centers, communities, tourism development etc., making it impossible to predict what this country will be in the next 20 years.

Cuba continues to discuss which path to take towards progress, while it takes two steps forward and one step backwards or zig-zags without finding a direction to go in.  Vietnam is the most loyal, solid and exemplary ally that Cuba has in the whole world, that’s why Cuba was even willing to give its own blood, but it obstinately questions, rejects or ignores Vietnam’s resounding successes today.

Vietnam

The excessive politicization of the country painfully keeps Cuban media, analysts, politicians and thinkers obsessed about how much or what the United States says without caring if it’s Barack Obama or Donald Trump who are living in the White House. 

Cuba needs to finally recognize the fact that the United States is an old history and it’s imperative that the media’s constant cacophany is silenced, which just wears away at the people and makes them numb by repeating the horrors that were committed against them.  No media outlet or citizen in Vietnam talks about the past, they talk about a bright future instead.

It would be a great investment to send a multi-skilled delegation that represents every sector of the Cuban people to Vietnam for a week at a time throughout the year as a tourist so they can see it with their own two eyes, learn and correct our trail of mistakes. 

Cuba doesn’t need to invent cold water! The historic and unyielding solidarity between Vietnam, China and Cuba only needs Cuba to relax some archaic regulations, which would allow the country to become the “Singapore of the Caribbean” in a short while and serve as a trampoline for other countries within the region, just as Singapore influenced progress made in Indonesia, Cambodia, the Phillipines and others.

9 thoughts on “The Future of Cuba Lies in Asia

  • Bravo Dr. Jones. Finally a post that I mostly agree with. So what’s keeping Cuba from adopting a Vietnam model? The Castros! Their failed dictatorship refuses to incorporate real change for fear of losing their tyrannical grip on power. The Vietnamese have no such attachments to the past and are therefore free to advance.

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    • Dude, you are one broken record.

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  • Very interesting analysis! Hope it becomes a reality for Cuba one day.

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  • Great article, and I also agree with Moses. No nation should hold too much attachment to the past; but we need to learn from the past to look for a better future! I like the way the Vietnamese replaced their aging leadership with young men and women who have a better vision ahead! It is amazing that the Vietnamese as well as people from nearby Southeast Asian countries are willing to forgive their former colonial masters and move on. Vietnam’s colonial war lasted 35 years against the Japanese, French and Americans respectively; and Vietnam defeated them all! Cuba should also look ahead into the future soon after the last Castro dictatorship kicks the bucket and then follow the Vietnam model.

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    • Indeed the Vietnamese story is a remarkable one.
      They suffered horrifically at the hands of the colonialists and invaders that you mention.
      But they ultimately managed to gain freedom from foreign powers and secure long term independence.
      They have subsequently reinvented themselves economically – Going from an ailing economic model to a prosperous one.
      Cuba seems to have secured independence……….
      Just needs to improve on it’s current economic model as Vietnam has (easier said than done – the political will needs to be there first).
      Excellent article/Excellent analysis.
      And I would pretty much agree with all comments made so far…………

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  • One of my favourite bloggers, Linh Dinh (Postcards from the End of America) has just returned to Viet Nam to live permanently. Apparently, he does not believe in Thomas Wolf’s advice that “You Can’t Go Home Again!” I wish him well, although I will sorely miss the accounts of his travels in America, which were even better than those of the late Alexander Cockburn and were on the level of those of Henry Miller (“The Air Conditioned Nightmare”) or Alex de Tocqueville, Chas. Dickens, Jack London or Jack Kerouac. He has been back-and-forth to Viet Nam for the past decade, but has finally decided that it is too alienating to have one foot in America (to which he was brought from Viet Nam, as a child in 1975) and has made his decision to return to his ancestral home. His accounts of his homeland are exciting. Perhaps he is romanticizing it, but I think–or at least hope–not, as I really feel he is “going home,” as in the spiritual sung at the end of “The Snake Pit!” Thanks again for your perceptive report, Alberto Jones!

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  • I’m from China and LOVED visiting Cuba. Hope the ties between Cuba and China strengthens. We have so much to learn from each other.

    Viva la revolucion!

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  • Borther Alberto Jones, Vietnam is not 90 miles away from the USA! VIetnam is not throttled by an economic embargo, even though it was at war with the bullying USA! Vietnam is a Communist country yet the USA trades with it. China is a Communist Country, yet the USA trades with and have friendly relations with it? Why can’t the same friendly relations be developed between Cuba and the USA? Why does the USA keep holding on to Guantanamo which is a part of Cuba? You must be fair in your reporting brother. Since Cuba’s 1959 Revolution, the country’s education and health sectors have improved tremendously; as a matter of fact, these were non existent prior to 1959. If any ship enters a Cuban Port it cannot visit the USA under six months.

    Cuba cannot use the USA dollar to trade with. Vietnam is not saddled with these restrictions. It is a known fact that the USA seeks the DEATH PENALTY for the Cuban Revolution which is just 90 miles away from its shores and therefore should not be an example to other Latin American Countries to copy! The hypocrisy of the USA is exhibited whenit trades with Cummunist China, when it traded with Communist Russia, when it has friendly relations with Commnist Vietnam, but places all kinds of ECONOMIC BOULDERS in the front of Cuba’s economic development

    The same USA also has an economic enbargo on Communist North Korea whom it could not defeat in the 1950 – 53 Korean war? Why does the USA impose economic embargoes on countries it cannot control? Is this not against the spirit of the UN Charter which was introduced to prevent future wars and which require all member states to live in peace and to settle all differences peacefully? Why can’t the USA respect the Charer of the United Nations? Cuba is a Sovereign Country and possesses the right to pursue the pathway best suited to its economic develpment without any whiplash from the USA!

    I ask the brother that next time he is reporting he must present all the salient points. He will be more respected by his readers for so doing. If Cuba were to be left alone and treated like the countries of China and Vietnam, it would have been the hub of the Caribbean – A Shining Light! But despite all the economic setbacks imposed by the USA, it has caused the dismantling of the vampire system of Apartheid in South Africa. It has freed Nelson Mandela who was imprisoned in the same South Africa for 27 years.

    It has Liberated Namibia and Angola from the clutches of Aparteid South Africa. It has educated the professionals of the Third world free of charge. These professionals did not possess the finacial assets to access their profession, but Cuba provided the opportunity. In a sense, Cuba does not possess the skyscrapers of Vietnam, but it has built skyscrapers of education and liberation! Which is better for the future of the human race? In 2014, the World Bank, in its annual report 10/3/2014 applauded the education systen of the country, ranking it with First World Countries which are more economically advanced than it.

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  • Brother Clarke, I am offended by your superficial reading and the intent of this article. I am asking to read it once again and provide your imput. I am not an occasional visitor of Cuba, I lived there half of my life and my kids and grandchildren are there not in Singapore.

    It is said, that those who love you most, can do the most harm to you and that happens to so many of Cuba solidarity groups, government officials and ordinary Cubans. Much love demands to be observant, critical, demanding and suggest tough medicine, even at risk of retribution.

    Fearing backlash could never compare with the enormous unused potential Cuba wastes on a daily basis, because so many of us choose to stay silent, leave it to others. With or without the cruel embargo, there millions of things Cuba could do to ameliorate its economical stagnation, that why my analysis was based on Viet Nam and not and Hong Kong.

    Millions of tourist visiting Halang Bay, Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi spends millions of dollars sightseeing, purchasing souvenir and tours are costly, not so in Cuba, because of the state monopoly, that keeps tourist idling, with little or no goods for them to inject money into the economy.

    To pretend that Cuba does not need to review its course, do what it promised to open its market under a socialist control like Viet Nam and China and put an end to scarcity, human suffering and social breakdown, where people are induced into corruption. There are many ways of peeling an orange and no harm in exploring alternative.

    I appreciate your love and concern for my country which is yours. We need you on board to help us tackle and resolve, not hide the persistent racism in our beloved country. Much work lies ahead without using Cuba most urgent, unresolved problem to destabilize the country. Together we can fix its shortcoming and be proud of its accomplishmnts!

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