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Those who left... are no longer building Cuba

More than a quarter of a million Cubans abandoned the island last year, and the vast majority were young people, many of them highly educated.

La Habana
Ruins in Havana.
Ruins in Havana. Diario de Cuba

A simple walk through Havana —at the risk of twisting an ankle in a hole in the sidewalk, or a skull fracture from a falling shard from a balcony—  is enough to appreciate the state of the country's physical capital: its streets, factories and machines are crumbling, from poverty. Cuba is falling apart.

But Cuba is also moving apart too, as if pieces of the island were breaking off to float to more fertile shores, with more than a quarter of a million Cubans leaving the island last year, the vast majority young people from an aging country, and many highly educated, seeking to blossom far from the people whose efforts paid for their studies.

Disillusionment, no job and personal prospects, poverity … the reasons for professionals to leave Cuba are countless. The Revolution is running out of "the fundamental clay of our cause." If years ago it lost the hearts of the youth, now it is losing their brains.

Although the flight of professionals to more highly developed places is a universal phenomenon, in Cuba it is more acute because, from the very beginning of the Revolution, and compared to other emigrations, professionals and highly qualified people have always been overrepresented among those leaving Cuba; here, the middle and upper strata of society, precisely the most educated, emigrate more frequently.

While at the start of the Revolution human capital was lost due to the new regime?s belligerence, and the widespread theft of the fruits of those professionals' labor, today human decapitalization is due, more than anything else, to the impoverishing consequences of political measures that, in order to concentrate power in the hands of a few, placed the country on a path disincentivizing the creation of wealth.

Incoming remittances are not offsetting the outflow of the human capital lost (just ask the mothers who bid their children farewell!) because, although the concentration of professionals in the Cuban community of exiles makes it one of the most prosperous, and this is reflected in the volume of remittances sent to Cuba, that money dries up, being consumed rather than invested or fueling growth, because the lack of a capital market and the history of Castroism make it very difficult to transform those resources into anything productive.

While many professionals from Peru, Chile, Brazil and Guyana emigrate to Canada, or the USA, Cuban professionals emigrate to the north, but also to Peru, Chile, Brazil or Guyana, to fill the positions that their nationals open up, while in Cuba, in turn, positions are filled by accelerating the training of specialists, which can only be done by lowering quality. The plan for new teachers devastated education at the beginning of this century, and today's new doctors are putting an end to what is left of Cuba as a "medical power."

The cracked columns that support the arcades along the Calzada de 10 de Octubre thoroughfare are less ominous than the absolute lack of civic education that 64 years of hypocrisy and indoctrination, plus the breakdown in channels for the transmission of formal education (family, religions, associations) have engendered in a society now devoid of values or respect. The irresponsibility generated by the absence of freedom under an omnipresent state has spawned a coarse society with a dreadful attitude towards work.

The quality and quantity of human capital —the knowledge, skills and abilities to carry out a specific activity— has fallen to levels that jeopardize the island's future development, which will depend on, once the totalitarian stage is over, attracting thousands of professionals, returning with experience and work habits more compatible with prosperity.

Although the very father of modern economics, Adam Smith, already spoke of human capital, it was in the 1950s, with the studies by Schultz and Becker, that it became accepted that well-trained people with the right values are the most critical resource of any productive organization.

Fidel Castro demonstrated his understanding of this principle when he stated that "the future of our country must be a future of men of science." He left the future of the country, however, in the hands of people who prospered by buying any bit of gold, or selling any bit of morality.

And, from scientific capital, the comandante went on to boast about prostitutes as capital: "Our prostitutes are the best educated in the world." Indeed, that is what he left us: a country where both the government and the citizens prostitute themselves. Cuba is a street hustler looking for a pimp.

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