Cuba's command economy can't order toilet paper

Miami Herald:

There's good news and bad news in Cuba.

The bad news: There's a shortage of toilet paper, and officials in Havana say it will not ease until the end of the year.

The good news: Day-old copies of the Communist party's newspaper Granma, a traditional substitute, are available for less than a U.S. penny. And that's six to eight full, if rough, pages per day.

Cuban officials say the shortage is the result of the global financial crisis and three devastating hurricanes last summer, which forced cuts in imports as well as domestic production because of reductions in electricity and imports of raw materials.

But CNN commentator Fareed Zakaria says that ``at the bottom of this toilet paper shortage is Cuba's continuing commitment to its bizarro world of socialist economics.''

``Cuba's disastrous economy would be a joke were it not for the poverty it has perpetuated among millions of Cubans,'' Zakaria said in a video commentary posted last week. ``The whole country is stagnating. Fifty percent of its arable fields are going unfarmed. First and second year college students work one month out of the year in agriculture.''

``It's insane farm policies lead to frequent shortages of fruit, vegetables and other basic food needs, shortages even more serious than toilet paper,'' he added. ``And all those programs that they have held up for years as successes of the communist revolution -- free education for all through college, universal health care -- well, Raúl Castro just announced they're going to have to make cuts in all of these.''

``Meanwhile the average Cuban still earns less than . . . $20 per month,'' he concluded. ``Now, capitalism has its problems, as we have all seen. But at least we're not running out of toilet paper.''

...

When it can be found it costs the equivalent of two days pay for most Cubans. As I noted before, Castro is republishing his Little Red Book just in time for the crisis. That is one of the problems with a command economy, those in charge have little idea of what to command.

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