The Marxist-Leninist fiasco in Cuba has hit a new nadir, with foreign companies now concluding that construction workers in the industry on the Island are not as qualified, skilled or reliable as their counterparts in other Third World countries. They claim that they work slowly, are not very skilled, and steal construction materials from sites.
Those are reasons cited by the French company Bouygues for having taken over 100 Indian workers to Havana, hired to work on the project that will turn the emblematic building on the Manzana de Gómez into a luxury 246-room hotel.
The French company associated with the Revolutionary Armed Forces' (FAR) Gaviota group, which dominates the tourism industry in the country, reported that it will continue to hire carpenters, masons, plumbers, electricians, welders, etc. Now, with the Castros' permission, they will continue to import labor to work in the country that has the highest unemployment rate in the Americas.
The regime claims that these foreign workers are “training” Cuban builders. False. The situation has three main causes (there are others):
1) Cuban workers' lack of motivation due to the meager the wages they are paid, as the regime confiscates the bulk of their wages, in amounts agreed to with the French.
2) Their need to abscond with building materials to sell them on the black market in order to be able to feed and clothe their families.
3) Their lower productivity and skill after years in the service of an economic system that impedes the development of efficiency in any human activity.
According to a Reuters report out of Havana, those workers from India receive a salary of about 1,500 euros per month, or $1,661 (EUR 0.90/dollar on July 27), which is approximately the minimum wage in France – but is 70 times the average wage in Cuba: 24 dollars a month (in Haiti it is double).
By stripping every Cuban worker of most of the salary paid him by the French, Castroism pillages them like 17th-century slaves. Without any consequences. The Indians in Manzana de Gómez are paid 12 to 20 times more than their Cuban counterparts for the same work.
Seeing is believing. Cuba has always been a magnet drawing immigrants from all over the world. But foreigners could not be paid more than their Cuban colleagues for doing the same work. What sometimes happened was exactly the opposite, as some unscrupulous businessmen paid foreigners (especially Asians) less than Cubans.
Neither the laws in effect, nor the unions, nor, obviously, the affected Cuban workers and professionals would have allowed such an outrage. And the Government confiscating their wages was unthinkable.
Cuba attracted people came from everywhere in search of good jobs, with professionals, investors and entrepreneurs all participating in the Island's economic boom. Between 1902 and 1930 1.3 million immigrants entered the country, doubling its population, according to Ministry of Taxation statistics.
In six years (1924-1930) 43,597 immigrants per year, on average, flowed into Cuba, a figure equal to that of Cubans who have emigrated to the United States in the last 10 months. In those first 28 years of republican life, 774,123 Spaniards went to Cuba, along with 190, 046 Haitians and 120,046 Jamaicans, to work mainly on the sugar cane plantations and in the sugar industry.
There were also 34.462 Americans, 19,769 British, 13,930 Puerto Ricans, 12,926 Chinese, 10,428 Italians, 10,305 Syrians, 8,895 Poles, 6,632 Turks, 6,222 French, 4,850 Russians, 3,726 Germans and 3,569 Greeks who relocated to Cuba.
A reputation as good builders
In the 40s and 50s foreign and domestic investment soared and, with it, construction work. In the 12 years prior to Fidel Castro's rise to power Cuba saw the construction of factories, large hotels and dozens of skyscrapers, including the Focsa, the Havana Hilton, and the Someillán, the tallest in the Caribbean and Central America.
American businessman Conrad Hilton, when he personally inaugurated the Havana hotel in March of 1958, stressed that it was the largest and tallest Hilton hotel in all of Latin America, and the hotel chain’s largest worldwide.
Also built were oil refineries, nickel processing plants, large apartment and office buildings, restaurants, bridges, avenues and highways, like the Northern Circuit, Southern Circuit, Monumental Highway, the Vía Blanca, the Vía Mulata and the Autopista del Mediodía; hospitals and clinics, a tunnel under Havana Bay, and two under the Almendares River; the monumental buildings of the Plaza Cívica, and the Coliseum of the Sports City.
All these projects, of the highest international quality, some unique in Latin America, benefitted from the expertise of Cuban construction workers, architects, engineers and other specialists, who garnered well-deserved international prestige.
But the Castros arrived and everything changed. In the late 60s Fidel created the Construction Sector and the activity began to be militarized, especially when in 1971 he placed the great repressor Ramiro Valdés in charge of it.
The sector included four organizations: Social and Agricultural Building Development (DESA), Industrial Construction (CI), National Agricultural Development (DAP), and the Building Materials Industry (IMC), headed up by commanders and captains from the Sierra Maestra, high-ranking officials with military methods.
In parallel the dictator created microbrigades, composed of office workers, professionals and workers from outside the construction sector, to build homes, working grueling days of over 10 hours, in violation of Cuba's own laws. Militarization and the microbrigades destroyed Cuba's reputation with regards to this vital economic activity, well earned before 1959.
According to the Ministry of Construction (MICONS) there are some 100,000 construction workers in the country. Of these, 20,000 are bureaucrats; that is, there is one bureaucrat for every 4 workers and technicians on site.
The system stymies efficiency
But thousands of those workers and technicians are idle. The ruinous Cuban economy does not produce construction projects for any sectors except for tourism, and they are all financed, managed and supported materially by foreign companies, such as is the case with Manzana de Gómez.
After the hotels are built they have to be managed by foreign companies, because there is no personnel in Cuba knowledgeable and properly trained about the international hotel industry, facing an increasingly competitive market.
Thus, there are already 20 hotel chains on the Island, including the Sheraton Group (USA), which runs about 70 hotels, although all are monitored by "overseers" of the FAR and MININT, owners of those hotels.
In any case, as one can see, all the factors that have generated this great national humiliation are the sole responsibility of the Castro regime. The most shameful aspect of all here is that Raúl Castro and Bouygues probably agreed to higher wages than those 1,500 euros/month paid to Indians. In that case, it is cheaper and more productive for the French company to import workers than to pay Cubans, who are so outrageously fleeced that they have every right in the world to drag their feet.
Moral: if Cuban builders received the 1,661 dollars their foreign colleagues do, bygone construction Cuban skills, as mentioned above, and Cubans’ reliability, would progress by leaps and bounds. And there would no Indian bricklayers in front of the Parque Central in Havana.