Informacion economica sobre Cuba

Cuba MBA's: As Communism Lingers, A New Backdoor To Capitalism Opens

A Spanish university and Catholic clergy in Cuba have joined forces to
help train Cuba's business leaders of the future — even if 'What
Future?' remains a looming question as regulations still restrict free
enterprise from blooming under the Castro regime.
By Daniela Arce

HAVANA – Even before Cuba began cracking its doors open to capitalism,
Paulino Garcia always displayed an entrepreneurial spirit. He spent two
years at a university in the Soviet Union before returning to his native
Cuba to continue his law studies at the University of Havana. After
working for a firm called Climex, Garcia eventually managed to open his
own restaurant in 1996, thanks to a new law introduced that allowed
people to work for themselves.

"I built it from nothing, and with a lot of sacrifice," Garcia says. "I
really wanted to have my own restaurant."

When Cardinal Jaime Ortega Alamino told José Luis Mendoza, the president
of the Catholic University (UCAM) in Murcia, Spain, that all of the
administrators and owners of small businesses in Cuba needed to go to
business school, he was thinking about people like Garcia.

At the end of 2010, Raul Castro's government changed the rules and
opened up the economy to a small amount of private business. In
November, it announced that barber shops and small cafeterias would
become private, and that he would allow an expansion in the number of
small restaurants like Garcia's. Now people are starting to realize that
running a business requires more than just intuition and common sense.

"The cardinal was reflecting on this need, and our president offered to
help fill it," says Gonzalo Wandosell, the vice-dean at the Business
Management School at UCAM.

The classes began on Sept. 26 in a symbolic building: the old seminary
of San Carlos and San Ambrosio, founded in 1689 and home to the Cultural
Center of Father Felix Varela. Wandosell indicated that the 45 founding
students come from both state-run companies and private companies, and
that there is no requirement for students to be Catholic. "They are
engineers, lawyers and economists."

The Church's role in the new MBA program has been substantial. Since
1959, the Cuban clergy has been enemy No. 1 of the revolution, although
the Church-state relationship has improved substantially since then,
especially after Pope John Paul II's 1998 visit.

On the other hand, the financing for the project has come from a Spanish
university, the colonial power up until 1898, which many Cubans still
refer to as the Motherland. The connections between the two countries
didn't chill in the wake of the Communist revolution, with Spanish
investment in Cuba still strong today.

In contrast to the costly programs in other countries, the Cuban MBA is
free for students, with the costs covered by the University and
donations from businesses in Murcia.

According to Wandosell, the Spaniards are taking care of the
instructors' salaries and travel expenses, while the Church "supplies
the buildings and coordinates with local instructors," as their
director, father Yosvani Carvajal, said.

It isn't the first program of its type attempted Cuba. The Argentinian
Business School ADEN tried it first, and was followed by a series of
other high-profile trials and failures.

The innovation in the UCAM program is that it is the only one directed
exclusively towards entrepreneurs and sole proprietors. That is not the
case at the MBA program at the University of Havana, where students must
be employed by an official state business to be accepted.

Not recognized at home

Majel Reyes Quesada, an MBA student with a Bachelor's degree in English,
said he had practical reasons for wanting to do the program. "I see
myself doing something in the future, with the possible new economic
opening," he said. "Maybe I'll create a small business."

This is a typical student profile, and it can explain the pragmatic
character of the curriculum. "In Spain we would call it professional
master's degree," explains Wandosell. "It offers advanced training in
business management, but is very orientated toward small and very small
businesses and cooperatives, which are the type of enterprises that are
being started in Cuba."

In spite of the recent reforms, there are still substantial obstacles
for potential entrepreneurs on the island nation. On the one hand, the
list of authorized activities precludes Cubans from opening businesses
likely to grow large. For example, a book-repair shop is ok, but a
publishing house is not. An artisan bricklayer can open his or her own
business, but not a construction company. No such company can open while
Cuba's constitution specifies that "the economic system is based on
socialist principles."

In addition, there is no credit or micro-credit system. Without any
access to start-up funds, entrepreneurship opportunities remain limited;
and finding funding can be a major obstacle even for people with family
abroad. And although the Communist Party passed a resolution during
their most recent congress to liberalize the wholesale markets, the
reforms have yet to be implemented.

Is this the back door to Cuba's capitalist tradition? Father Carvajal
offers the Church's non-ideological position: "It is for Cuba's benefit.
The graduates are for Cuba."

At the end of their program, the MBA students will have a degree
recognized in the European Union, but not in their own country. The
Education Ministry will not officially sanction the program until it is
paired with a Cuban university.

Read more from AméricaEconomía in Spanish

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