Cuba’s new socialist MBA program

The World

Story by PRI’s The World. Listen to audio above for full report.

Cuba’s leader Raul Castro has been making some moves toward liberalizing the island’s communist economy. The government recently announced that it was drastically reducing its workforce, and now it has begun offering the island’s first MBA program, sponsored by the Catholic Church.

“It’s really a sign of the times,” according to Financial Times reporter Marc Franc, “both in terms of the government’s acceptance of small businesses and also the warming trend with the catholic church.”

About a year ago, the Cuban government announced a change in its policy toward small business owners. Franc reports that “far from treating small businessmen like criminals, in fact, the country needed small business, and in fact they would be an important part of the socialist economy in the future.”

The government has started to give out licenses to would-be small business owners, at a rate of about 2,000 per week, according to Franc. But the university system there doesn’t have the classes set up to teach about how to run a business. That’s when the church stepped in.

It may not be Harvard, but many of the students are excited about the classes. “When you have zero alternative, of course it’s great,” Franc says. There will be about 30 students at the start, some from the university in Havana, some small business owners, and some who want to run businesses in the future.

Throughout the country, new businesses have been starting up, according to Franc. In fact, the street on which the school is located provides an interesting microcosm of the changes in Cuba.

“The school is located in the colonial part of Havana, so basically these people who are selling in this area, they’re selling to tourists, not necessarily to Cubans,” Franc reports. “So they’re competing with the state directly for the tourism dollars, something that was totally forbidden just a year ago.”

For now, though, it’s a question of how far this capitalist revolution in Cuba will go.


PRI’s “The World” is a one-hour, weekday radio news magazine offering a mix of news, features, interviews, and music from around the globe. “The World” is a co-production of the BBC World Service, PRI and WGBH Boston. More about The World.

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