Foreign Policy Blogs

The Missing Pillar

The Missing Pillar

A modern economy is usually based on a few industries or economic pillars that keep the economy afloat, resilient and viable in the long term. The loss of these staple pillars to an economy often results in eventual economic and political decline, and in some cases can lead to fairly rapid economic collapse. No political model can sustain itself when a collapse takes place or a series of them takes place. The collapse always has a negative effect on the ability for a population to sustain itself, as it has a direct effect on food, shelter and health and welfare of a population. For this reason, most Governments choose not to engage in external conflicts that can measurably harm its own population, as most Governments in such situations will not survive, saving some significant external help. External help can also work against a country’s best long term interests or be applied in a negative fashion as seen with some aid projects in Haiti currently. Without any form of stability, no aid or assistance will ever rebuild the economic pillars of an economy.

The eventual degradation of the economic pillars of an economy has a noticeable effect. Canada has had three major economic pillars, mostly based on large regional contributions to the larger economy and vast territory of Canada. While the region around Ottawa and north past Montreal is known for technical and engineering development, Southern Ontario was always the industrial base for Canada, while Western Canada and Alberta was Canada’s energy hub. While there are many of these industries across the country as well as a large agricultural sector, a negative impact on any of these three industries would always effect the entire economy and currency. With political divisions in Canada creating regional divisions, there are protests taking place as two of those main sectors have been shunned by the current Federal Government. This is the case because average people in those regions are being made aware daily that the economy and employment are not en bonne forme, and people are subject to several crises in their communities due to these policies.

Cuba, like many countries in Latin America, were naturally wealthy with the traditional economic pillar of agricultural exports being a main source of income. Along with many other countries in the region, Cuba also suffered from not having other sectors of the economy being able to compensate when the price of their primary export goods eventually dropped in value. Cuba did stand out however from the rest of its neighbours, as while this economic cycle is an occurrence for most agro export countries in Latin America, Cuba’s economy was boosted by its close ties to the United States’ economy before the 1950s and close political associations with the United States.

Once the Castro’s took power in Cuba, Cuba was adopted into the Soviet system. As a client state of the Soviets, Cuba’s economy was given low cost imports of oil and gas from Russia and foodstuffs from Ukraine, contributing back into the system by becoming an export partner to the Eastern Bloc and eventually becoming a hub for Soviet power in Latin America and abroad. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, an economic crisis for the Castros encouraged them to open the country up to tourism as well as creating closer ties with political allies in Venezuela, who supplied Cuba with their energy needs to buoy Cuba’s economy. By the 2010s, there was more sympathy for opening relations with Cuba, and some embargo restrictions were taken off, eventually reapplied in some forms, and Cuba was able to sustain itself until the last few years where Covid killed much of their tourism industry and it became difficult to keep the price of food sustainable for its population.

Cuba might be in one of the most precarious positions it has found itself in since the loss of both Castro brothers, as Cubans are making their own economic pillars by making their way to the US and sending back money to support their families in Cuba. Support from Venezuela may not be sustaining Cuba as it once did as Venezuela itself is suffering from its own financial troubles. As their main export of oil and gas fluctuates, so does Venezuela’s entire economic model. Political strife in Venezuela has made Venezuelans one of the largest refugee populations in the world. With their own local crisis, Venezuela cannot be Cuba’s low cost energy pillar, nor help Cuba sustain itself as it once did fifteen years ago.

Cuba’s system, like all others, are having major issues with the cost of food and energy. While the war in Ukraine does greatly affect these issues, the policy responses after Covid and into 2024 contribute greatly to the crisis as well as complicating issues surrounding the distribution of staple goods and services to their population. Relations with the United States need to be addressed, and a stable and productive measure out of the embargo system is needed. Cuba has sought assistance from international agencies due to food shortages, and it is in the best interests of everyone in the region to avoid another situation as now found in Haiti, a situation close to Cuba and the United States.

Protests in places like the US and Canada over inflationary issues came from policy decisions affecting food prices, as higher costs and taxes make their way through the logistical farming and distribution systems in the economy, degrading these pillars of the economy. With the Cuban system, Cubans are protesting the worst case scenario of a collapsed distribution system. With the entirety of the economy dependent on Government run distribution, food, fuel, and medicine is in a state of an absolutist crisis. When a country is suffering from both high costs of food as well as a severe lack of food and medicine, with no help coming from Cuba’s own Government, only those with many resources will be able to sustain themselves. The majority of the population are already suffering greatly, and those at the margins of society will barely survive. The Western Hemisphere likely cannot manage a collapse in both Haiti and Cuba, because the same issues exist in many other places and will spread. No Government survives its own people starving, nor should it.



Richard Basas

Richard Basas, a Canadian Masters Level Law student educated in Spain, England, and Canada (U of London MA 2003 LL.M., 2007), has worked researching for CSIS and as a Reporter for the Latin America Advisor. He went on to study his MA in Latin American Political Economy in London with the University of London and LSE. Subsequently, Rich followed his career into Law focusing mostly on International Commerce and EU-Americas issues. He has worked for many commercial and legal organisations as well as within the Refugee Protection Community in Toronto, Canada, representing detained non-status indivduals residing in Canada. Rich will go on to study his PhD in International Law.

Areas of Focus:
Law; Economics and Commerce; Americas; Europe; Refugees; Immigration