I’ve traveled to over 30 countries and this April I had the privilege of staying a week in Havana, Cuba. My first impressions were of a country in a time warp resulting from little investment in infrastructure over the past 40 years. Castro came to power in 1959 and his revolutionary manifesto implemented free education, literacy, health care, minimum wage, inexpensive utilities and basic staples. These were huge changes and many have endured.
What hasn’t endured is ongoing investment in infrastructure, government wages have been unchanged for 30 years, damaged road and footpaths remain unrepaired, housing is crumbling, plumbing is rudimentary, garbage collections inadequate and power cables are chaotic.
With restricted internet and wifi, visitors and locals queue for daily staples, changing money, and buying internet time. These disadvantages result from a government increasingly out of touch with what people now want. The context has changed. Cuba has a strong history of international collaboration, and a chance to flourish with its impressive record of socialism.
How might Cuba retain its distinctive beauty and culture and enter the 21st?
Three advantages are evident:
1. Entrepreneurs flourish
Householders have set up restaurants, rooms for rent, and varied transport to supplement their basic income and provide employment. There is no systemic mindset allowing entrepreneurs to flourish and infrastructural developments (plumbing and electrical) are piecemeal.
2. Artisans and construction flourish
There is a huge capacity for restoration, renovation and rebuilding. Habana has a profoundly beautiful architecture with Spanish, English, Arabic and French influences. Building use is changing, from tobacco headquarters to hotels.
3. Proud and positive citizenship
Everyone I met was friendly, circumspect and beautifully presented. Subsistence living fails to restrain the joie de vivre of the people, their pride in their country and city, and their acceptance of their history. They know the problems they face as a nation and express hope for a vibrant future.
What does investing in infrastructure mean? In my business, this means investing in three areas:
What does investment in infrastructure mean to you and your business?