The unpredictable effects still to come of the crisis could be bad news for countries like France, whose government has just announced that the nation is officially in an economic recession after having registered a negative economic-growth rate for the past two quarters of this year. French-government numbers-crunchers predict that, overall, for the year 2008, the country will still be able to achieve a growth rate of one percent, but that's a pretty weak performance indicator, to put it mildly, for one of Europe's largest, most diversified and most important economies. (Le Monde)
Then there's a country like isolated, little Cuba, whose centralized economy, controlled by a self-styled, socialist-revolutionary government, is not directly in the path of the fallout from the Wall Street/subprime-mortgages/credit-crunch storm because its banking system is not linked to that of the United States. However, Cuba already has suffered in many ways for many years as a result of the U.S. government's long-standing economic blockade of the island nation. To many Cubans and other overseas observers today, that political gesture seems especially unfair and hypocritical now that the U.S. government has become such a big supporter - and, in its bankrupt, tin-cup-rattling state, financially dependent on the wealth - of the communist government of China. Historical footnote: The U.S. economic blockade of Cuba will mark its 46th anniversary later this month; it was announced on October 22, 1962 by President John F. Kennedy, who ordered its immediate implementation in response to evidence that had been discovered indicating that the Soviet Union was installing missiles on the island.
Now, in the aftermath of Hurricanes Gustav and Ike, which hit the Caribbean island hard in late August and early September, devastating large swaths of crop land and rural towns and villages in the eastern part of the country, Cuba's government has called on the ever-struggling Cuban people to tighten their belts even more as the always cash-strapped nation tries to recover. Although post-hurricane aid has flowed into Cuba from Russia, China, Venezuela, Mexico, the United Nations, and other sources, the government of Cuban President Raúl Castro this week announced a nationwide food-rationing policy.
Now, consumers will only be permitted to purchase limited amounts of rice, beans, root vegetables, plantains and other basic foods. In addition, the government is imposing price controls on such foods and is making an effort to clamp down on black-market activities; television reports have advised Cubans that "the next five months" are going to be critical as the country struggles to get back on its feet. Government authorities "have insisted that the only way to get through the next few months" will be for farmers to undertake a "massive planting of short-cycle crops..., like squash." One TV report noted that, had the hurricanes occurred later in the year, when "everything is already planted, the damage would have been catastrophic." (La Jornada, Mexico)
In one of his latest essays on current affairs that appear regularly in Cuba's state-controlled media, former President Fidel Castro, who has been ailing and who handed over the daily running of the government to his younger brother Raúl two years ago, advised his compatriots that, in the recuperation period after the recent hurricanes, "rigorous discipline and an absolutely rational sense of priorities will be needed, without any fear whatsoever," in order for the Cuban people to survive and rebuild. (EFE, Spain)