One of the great achievements of the Cuban revolution was the introduction of the ration book. This policy was common in Europe during the wars or times when food security was threatened. It lists necessary food items that people will get paid by the state. The amount per person is also set by the government. These products include vegetables, oil, beans,milk, and of course, very important for Cubans: coffee. During my travels in Cuba, I met a lot of people that lived from less than $10 pension a month. Of course, rent, health insurance, education and necessary services are paid for by the government. However, $10 per month would not be possible to cover the costs for groceries. For this reason, the ration book system is still absolutely necessary in order to ensure people’s decent living.
There are rumors now on the streets in Havana that the days of the ration book might come to an end, however as it does cost the state a lot. With the economy becoming more open, this system might come under threat.
Knowing Cuba quite well, I can say that change is happening in Cuba on a very slow pace. I doubt therefore that the ration book, as well as other socialist policies will be cancelled any time soon. I do not understand the whole hassle that is being made and I believe that the spread of such rumors can also be done intentionally in order to fasten the pace of change. I do not believe that it is the interest of the government to spread such statements and I can imagine that upper class Cubans (especially those who are employed in the tourist sector and therefore have access to the tourist currency CUC) benefits from introducing these discussions in order to confront ordinary Cubans with their possible future.
The vast majority of people I met in Cuba is in favor of the social achievements of the revolution, such as universal health care, free education, and of course- the ration books. We should not forget that for Cubans these socialist values are already entrenched in their culture and way of life and therefore I believe that it is impossible to abandon these practices in the next 10, or 20 years to come.
This video by BBC made me write my response to these rumors and I definitely recommend you to watch it. It is an interview with a couple that relies on the ration book and it also takes you to the “shop” where you can get your monthly rations.