Cuba's Cartoon Economy

Since Cuba barely exports anything, its currency's exchange rate is practically below zero. The Miami Herald reports:

Decades of measly salaries and vast government subsidies have kept many young people off the labor rolls because it's more lucrative to hustle on the street. Others live comfortably enough off remittances from Miami and elsewhere.

Loraicys passes on neighborhood janitor positions in hopes of higher-paying work at nearby resort hotels, where she also would have a chance of earning tips in dollars.

''I am not going to tell you something different: there are jobs here in Cárdenas where I live. Doing what? Cleaning hospitals for 150 pesos ($7) a month,'' said Loraicys, a single mom. ``For 150 pesos, I would rather stay home with my kid. I am willing to work really hard, but not for nothing in return.''

While Cuba struggles to increase productivity, it must also find a way to entice hundreds of thousands of people to get a job. The dilemma is one of the profound systemic difficulties Castro faces as he tries to create a so-called modern socialist economy.

The government says there are plenty of jobs--just low-paying ones Cubans won't take. Even educated professionals would rather work in the tourist industry as waiters or taxi drivers, which earn far more money than state jobs that usually offer about $10 a month.

Ten dollars a month? That's what the pay would be for a job that Porky Pig applies for in a 1941 Warner Bros. cartoon.

Cubans in Miami probably put all their pennies in a big jar and every January ship it to Havana for their relatives to live off for the whole year.

Cuba has 2000 miles of coastline, and there's nothing golfers like more than playing alongside the ocean, but only one golf course has been built in the country since the Revolution. The smaller, formerly more-backward Dominican Republic has 22 golf courses, and its famous ocean-front Teeth of the Dog course charges outside players $225 per round, which is twice what a Cuban makes in a year.