By Liudmila Peña Herrera
Cuban journalist. Graduated in Journalism from the Universidad de Oriente, in Santiago de Cuba. She works for the weekly Ahora, in Holguín province.
Ivette Leyva García
Journalist and communicator. Editor of La Tiza, Revista Cubana de Diseño, and contributor to Cubadebate.
July 29, 2020
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.
With all the experience and prestige gained by a broad and multifaceted work in the field of light industry over more than six decades of work, chemical engineer Leonel Amador Perez, today an advisor to the Minister of Industries, is an authoritative and proactive voice in the attempt to insert Cuban design in the quality standards of national productions.
A perfumer by profession, Leonel Amador became involved from a very young age – at just 16 – in the fascinating world of fragrances. He himself defines the year 1958 as a determining moment in the destiny that would follow after entering the Rancho Boyeros Technical-Industrial School.
“At that time, the advertising of the big soap companies on the radio and television was very appealing to me. That’s why I chose the specialty of Soap and Perfumery”, remembers who began his professional history in the aerosol filler, in Havana, where they produced the sprays for various cosmetics, perfumes, shaving foams of different brands and many hair products.
His experience in this sector would be enriched in the Burjois Perfumery, producer of Chanel No. 5; then, in the recently created Empresa Consolidada de Jabonería y Perfumería, and later in the Laboratory of Development and Production of bouquets, currently Suchel Fragancia, of which he was one of the founders and its first director, at the age of 23. If such merits still seem insufficient, he is endorsed by having been director of design at the Ministry of Light Industry and winner of the National Honorary Design and Design Management Award, both granted by ONDi.
So many distinctions do not spoil his humility. In the way he conducts himself with his colleagues, there is not the slightest hint of the egocentrism that usually originates such entertainments; on the contrary, in his slow speech and in the frank and clear dialogue, like the essence of one of his perfumes – Alicia, inspired by Prima Ballerina Assoluta -, one can guess the peasant roots of which he assures he is proud.
His tenacity in work and the energy he gives to that passion, make him “jump” to the laboratory from time to time, to compose some fragrance (the last ones were S Hojas de Tabaco Verde, Súcheli Flores Blancas and Insaciable). For him, talking about the challenges and the need to incorporate design solutions into the daily life of a country that is destined to promote productive chains is an obligation, but also a pleasure.
What policies have been developed within the Ministry of Industries to contribute to the productive linkages that, according to the economic authorities, the country needs so much?
-This is an expeditious way for economic actors involved in a production chain to obtain benefits. Logically, the development of one activity drives that of the others and, strategically, it is beneficial and very effective. This policy, within the Ministry of Industries, is not new, since it was born with the Revolution itself and the ideas implemented by Che, who conceived the Cuban industrial development through the productive chains. That is, if we were going to produce coffee, then we would develop the production of the sack and, for that, we would have to produce the fiber, for which purpose the agricultural crops of the kenaf were planted. Today, the policy and programs of industrial development until 2030 take into account these productive chains.
How do you assess the degree of insertion of Cuban design in those chains?
-The insertion of design in the productive chains is vital, although in some processes it is not given the importance it deserves, even when, strategically, it is essential.
“Today, the quality systems that are implemented throughout the industrial plant are based on the evaluation and validation of the design, not only to have a well-assembled quality management system, but also to avoid defective products that do not meet the needs for which they were created. For this reason, design, both industrial and visual communication, plays a very important role in the development of production and in the levels of satisfaction that products and services must achieve.
“We still need to promote it more, because it is not at the center of the company’s management development, even though there are some who have understood the importance of design management, to the point that today they are successful entities in their product development policies.
“It may be that those working in the industry are not always aware of the importance of design, but neither does ONDi and designers have to wait until they are. I believe they should play a more active role in demonstrating the opportunities offered by design as a tool for achieving higher rates of product competitiveness. We cannot conceive of an export industry if it does not have good design. And this is within the policies that the ministry is developing.
“At the moment, we are working on various aspects of the issue. For example, along with the industrial development policy, there is the packaging policy and the design policy; all this so that there is a guiding document in the country that can show us the way to achieve greater efficiency and competitiveness in the product range through design”.
How could designers play a more proactive role in raising awareness of the importance of design?
-There is no one who knows more about the importance of design than the designer himself. We need to get rid of the complaint a little. We need to talk, convince and show more what can be achieved. We must not allow valuable projects to be drawn up and then archived. We have to fight to get these good projects into production.
“Design work must be seen from the industrial management itself, but that is achieved by educating and demonstrating. We developed an experience 25 years ago, at the end of the nineties, with a diploma in management of this activity, at the Instituto Superior de Diseño (ISDi). Thanks to this action of improvement, a group of industry leaders, including me, who was then a vice-minister, prepared ourselves in the most important aspects related to design. Because of those relationships I had with ONDi, I also participated in international events, always presenting papers on the color-smell relationship in the design of packaging for the cosmetics industry and on experiences in design management.
“We also promoted, in coordination with ONDi and ISDi, the experimental reorientation of higher level graduates. It was not a question of improvising designers, but of enriching with these tools professionals who, with a knowledge base such as industrial engineers, chemists, textiles…, could influence, from the industry, design management.
“I owe a lot to the designers I met during the 23 years that I attended to the activity at the ministry level. José “Pepe” Cuendias was a brother…
(Our interviewee briefly interrupts the dialogue. He is moved by the memory of the former director of ONDi and rector of ISDi for so many years. Before our eyes, he is no longer, for a few minutes, the advisor; now we see him in the skin of the friend. He breathes, and continues).
“My relationship with him, in the framework of work, was very close. We planned the training activities together with the staff of the institute. I was also nourished by boys I had known since they were students: Pedrito (Pedro García-Espinosa), Sergito (Sergio Peña Martínez), Giselita (Gisela Herrero García), Carmita (Carmen Gómez Pozo)… There were very talented designers in the industry itself, from whom I learned, like Rafael de León -National Design Award in 2005-, a costume designer for Tropicana and for Vanessa’s trunks, who is very well known internationally”.
How do you assess, from your work experiences, the industry-design relationships over the years?
-In the seventies of the last century, there was a Design Department in the Ministry of Light Industry, whose creation I defended a lot because there was a similar one in the Ministry of Industries of Che. In 1980 the ONDi was created, and the relations between both institutions led to the emergence of design centres in the 1990s, by branches: clothing, footwear, furniture. It was then that, as Vice-Minister, I started to attend to the activity.
“The fact that later the presence of design in industry has been blurred is due to an essentially economic factor. For there to be design there has to be production, and today access to the market for national products is limited by financial problems. We must therefore ensure that part of the solution to this situation is design as a tool. At present, the linkage of the tourism sector and the furniture industry is a positive example. It is satisfying to see the furniture in hotels such as Paseo del Prado, for example; anyone would think that it is not Cuban, and yes, it is manufactured in an industry that is part of that productive chain that we are called upon to promote.
“When you think about how this chain is carried out, you have to take into account that furniture means wood, varnishes, nails, screws, upholstery materials, the clothes of the factory workers, their shoes… Let’s analyze how many things are derived and we will see that it is a big chain in which design plays a fundamental role”.
In his speech to the National Assembly of People’s Power in December 2019, President Miguel Díaz-Canel posed the challenge of “conquering the greatest possible prosperity”, even in the midst of the economic war we are facing. How can we accompany this objective from industry, from design, in the medium term?
-For me, Cuban industry is committed to be better, to overcome every day, and it will achieve it by working more efficiently and effectively, developing the products that Cubans want and deserve. In that challenge, design is an essential tool, because with it we can adapt the product to the needs of the population in an optimal way.
“Likewise, ONDi must use all its experience and knowledge to help raise awareness among industry specialists and to definitively materialize the use of design in each work, product or service that will be made available to our public.
“It must never be forgotten that if you do not have a design that is competitive with the international average, it will be very difficult to export. To achieve this, you must have stable quality and be very punctual with design solutions”.
In July 2020, ONDi celebrated its 40th anniversary. What idea or message would you like to convey to your collective, who are committed to making Cuba a country of good design?
-We must continue to maintain our professional commitment as we have done up to now, and even more. I know the spirit of work of the office, the battle of its designers who radiate a willingness to help in everything they have been asked to do. I just want to invite you to continue to be an example of that passion for design. That needs to be multiplied.
Authorities say that April will show some improvement in the supply of toiletries.
As of May and June the situation should be stable in the country.
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.
Based on the current conditions of the national industry, the conciliation in terms of production and the assigned financing, the toiletries -such as soap, toothpaste, liquid detergent and others that are sold in the retail stores-must start to show a greater availability in the market, even from this month.
This was announced by Betsy Diaz Velazquez, head of Domestic Trade (Mincin). She explained that now in March, the levels of presence and assurance of these products will show better performance compared to previous weeks, which should go to stability once they begin to recover inventories.
In this regard, she added, April will also show some improvement, and from May and June the situation of sanitation should be stable in the country.
As to why these items are not marketed through the system of the ration book, perhaps as an emerging measure in the face of hoarding and re-sellers, the Minister explained that the toiletries can not be included in the basic family basket, as it would become a controlled product and, therefore, acquire rights.
If we do not have enough to put, for example, one soap per person, and ensure that it reaches the population according to the established cycles, then we can not assume control measures in the register of consumers, said Diaz Velazquez.
“What we can do, and do, is give the authorities of the territory the power to apply regulatory measures in the sale of products in high demand and with insufficient supply on the market. We are not talking about the administrator, but a power of governments and municipal administrations,” he said.
In addition, he insisted, there are certain items that can only market the units of MINCIN, such as Lis and Nacar soap, or liquid detergent Limtel. No one else is authorized, and anyone who incurs in this type of sales is acting illegally.
AT THE SUCHEL COMPANY
Carlos Miguel Boggiano Sánchez, Managing Director of the company Suchel, agrees with the words of the head of MINCIN, telling Granma that “in May they will start to gradually improve deliveries, after achieving sustainability in their production and marketing”.
And more than goodwill or an optimistic attitude to support the announced stability, the company has, since February, “all the financing required to respond to the planned levels of laundry and toilet soap, liquid detergent and toothpaste”, products that showed sensitive deficits during 2019 and at the beginning of the year.
This guarantee, stressed Boggiano Sanchez, “marks the difference with respect to previous periods and ensures compliance with contracts for raw materials, as well as their arrival.
To get an idea of the recovery trend shown by the industry, it is appropriate to review the production indices for the first quarter of 2019 and those contemplated for the same stage in 2020.
During the first three months of the previous year, this entity delivered to MINCIN 7,806 tons of cleaning supplies, a figure that represented 16.1% of the 2019 plan.
However, at the end of March, the company must deliver 8296 tons, equivalent to 16,5 % of the forecast for 2020, a schedule that shows growth in the four families of products mentioned.
“From the raw material already available in the market, it is projected to exceed the production of the quarter by 380 tons of washing soap and 500 tons of liquid detergent”, said the CEO of Suchel.
It is precisely this last product, together with toothpaste, that has shown the greatest impact at the beginning of the year. It is estimated that it will recover, as of May, in the following order: detergent, although demand continues to exceed supply; laundry soap, toilet soap and toothpaste.
He said that, so far, the most significant deliveries are concentrated in the provinces of Havana, Matanzas, Villa Clara and Camagüey.
He stressed that as with the stable arrival of raw materials and the continuity of production, the industry, composed of six business units with a productive base, will put its capacities above 95% of use. This is the goal for which all the strategies are designed, from the availability of personnel to the organization of the required work shifts.
And it cannot leave out, from any productive analysis, as Boggiano Sanchez says, the impact of the hostile policy of economic, commercial and financial blockade of the US Government, whose tentacles press each sector of the economy.
The production of shavings, a fundamental raw material for making soap, requires imported oils and fats which, during 2019, in the words of the director, did not reach the country. This is, in addition to financial restrictions, due to the impossibility of tankers to touch Cuban ports, because of the pressures resulting from the unilateral and illegal U.S. sanctions against Cuba.
Of the 21,000 tons of shavings planned in 2019, barely 6,625 were obtained. This year no manufacture has been achieved, since the same constraints persist, not counting the increase in the price of the final product, which involves both the import of shavings and the import of fats and oils in different formats.
Although it might seem an excess, perhaps because of the reiterated nature of the subject, even in the production of soaps the economic blockade wags its tail.
IN DEVELOPMENT NEW LINE OF ECONOMIC PERFUMERY
By 2020, most of the demand of the mixed company Suchel Camacho s.a. is redirected to the network of stores in MINCIN, according to Caridad Estévez García, its sales manager.
In that sense, he said, the range of products is expanded with two new additions to the Daily line: cologne and deodorant. Other existing ones are consolidated, such as soap, children’s dental gel and [insect] repellent. In addition, there are also hair products such as professional dye and shampoo, conditioners and peroxides in large formats.
Likewise, he continued, “we are working on the development of new economic products of perfumery, cosmetics, and cleaning, which contribute to the substitution of imports, and guarantee the relation quality-price-opportunity”.
Together with the MINCIN and the governments of the territories, Suchel Camacho will participate, in the words of Estévez García, in the setting of personalized spaces, with adequate furniture for the positioning of such products.
In a first stage, the work will be done in stores located on Galiano and San Rafael streets in the capital, to be later extended to other establishments in the country.
By Manuel E. Yepe
Exclusive for the daily POR ESTO! of Merida, Mexico.
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann.
Philippe Waechter, Chief Economist with French Company Ostrum Asset Management, published on May 17 last year an interesting analysis of the current tensions between China and the United States.
The French expert explains that Donald Trump’s tweets of May 5 increased tension between Washington and Beijing and re-launched new discussions on the terms of a trade agreement between the two powers.
Chinese retaliation against US imports in response to the new U.S. tariffs calls into question the lengthy period of calm begun after the G20 meeting on December 1st last year.
Trump’s desire to impose new restrictions on China reflects his desire to repatriate jobs, especially in the manufacturing sector, and also to reduce US dependence on China.
In 2018, the U.S. external trade balance with China showed a more than $400 billion deficit.
The counterpart of this Chinese surplus with the United States reflected Chinese financing of the U.S. economy through the purchase of U.S. federal bonds. The logic was that the Chinese products in the U.S. market financed the U.S. economy to compensate for the lack of savings there.
The functioning of the Chinese-American trade was on the basis of complement, but this balance is now changing in nature because China’s weight in financing the US economy has been declining.
In March 2019, the weight of U.S. financial assets in the hands of China as part of the total U.S. foreign funding had fallen to the low level observed in June 2006.
The balance of the relationship between the two countries is changing and the United States no longer has the capacity to influence China as it did in the past. China now has more autonomy, says Waechter.
The White House is impatient over Chinese unwillingness to respond to its requests. By taxing Chinese imports, Washington wants to influence Beijing’s economy by creating strong social tension there that would force the hand of the Chinese authorities who do not wish to take this social risk.
The slow pace of Chinese activity indicators since the beginning of the year could validate Washington’s analysis and encourage it to further harden its commercial tone.
At the beginning of 2019, the weight of the United States in Chinese exports slowed significantly. China’s dependence on the United States is being reversed and, at the same time, the Chinese are re-launching the New Silk Road initiative, whose objective is, among others, to further diversify Chinese markets.
China is now expanding market opportunities and effectively limiting the influence of the U.S. on its internal economic situation.
The other major point of disagreement between Washington and Beijing concerns technology. “It seems to me that this is the main point of the differences between the two countries,” says Waechter.
The Chinese have updated technologically very quickly in the last twenty years. This has been the case both in technology transfers as in resources to facilitate it. And this has worked so well that the Chinese are now considerably ahead of the U.S. in 5G and Artificial Intelligence, among other significant developments.
In this question of technological supremacy, there is a radical change because the Chinese have the means to develop these technologies without American support.
This situation could have arisen with Japan a few years ago, but the Japanese always opted for remaining in the US fold, which is not the case in Beijing –says Waechter– because China has a very large internal market and this them to create conditions for autonomous technological dynamics.
The stakes are simple:
Whoever sets the standards for these new technologies will have a considerable comparative advantage. It will be easier to develop innovations using these technologies. That’s why this is where the negotiations get stuck.
The Chinese have devoted significant resources to achieving this technological advantage and will not fall naively under U.S. control.
This technological stagnation will not be resolved spontaneously, and the possibility of an agreement between the two countries seems unlikely.
“The dynamics of the world economy are changing. This is the first time in modern history that a situation occurs that makes it likely that the world economy moves to a new region due to criteria related to technological innovation.”
When the core of the world economy moved from the United Kingdom to the United States, there was a continuity that does not exist in the current situation. This will alter the dynamics of the world economy and will inevitably redistribute the cards among the regions of the world,” concludes Philippe Waechter.
May 22, 2019.
This article may be reproduced by quoting the newspaper POR ESTO as the source.