Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





John Devereux

Committee Members

Yehuda Klein

Thom Thurston

Subject Categories

Economics | Environmental Studies


Environmental Kuznets Curve, Ambient air indicators, Environmental Performance Index, Sugarcane, Forest Cover, Health Care


Cuban environmental conditions have not attracted the attention received by otherareas of Cuba's economic performance. Chapter 1 examines selected ambient air pollutants and the use of fossil fuels in Cuba, indicators for which there are relatively better available data, as of the “Special Period” extending into recent years. In contrast with prior anecdotally-driven approaches, the empirical examination aims to specifically identify Cuba's performance and international standing on these indicators through the use of a heterogeneous individual country adaptation of the income-pollution relationship known as the Environmental Kuznets Curve. In response to critiques in the literature, extensive testing of the panel data econometric results illustrates the limitations of the pooled Environmental Kuznets Curve framework. To compensate for deficiencies in Cuban data, a GDP per capita series for Cuba is estimated, which reflects the deindustrialization of the Cuban economy in the period under study. The shock which occurred during the “Special Period” on the sugarcane industry and economic output are shown to have a significant effect on the indicators studied. Cuba's results generally underperform peer group samples of tropical, Caribbean and transition countries as well as a smaller peer group of countries for CO2 emissions and use of energy from fossil fuels, exhibit mixed results on PM2.5, but perform relatively better on methane, and nitrous oxide.

Chapter 2 critically examines factors influencing Cuba's performance in the Environmental Performance Index, as compared to health care and education results, employing a logistic regression approach. The Environmental Performance Index includes CO2 and forest cover, studied respectively in Chapters 1 and 3, but broadens the scope of analysis to a much wider set of indicators. Strong political rights and civil liberties are shown to play an important role in enhancing performance for a cross-section of participating countries in the index and it is suggested that Cuba's environmental performance, which lags health care and education performance at the international level, could improve if political rights and civil liberties were higher in Cuba. No specific pathway demonstrates how this occurs but it is suggested that resources used to manage the environment in a centralized command economy could be more efficiently employed in a less centralized and participatory system.

Chapter 3 identifies the links between the decline of the sugarcane industry, external debt and the increase in forest cover with an empirical analysis including the use of an instrumental variable technique. The spread of the invasive tree species, sickle bush, known locally as marabu, appears to be an effect of the abandonment of sugarcane fields and may be an important factor to account for a substantial amount of measured forest cover, beyond reforestation efforts made by the government. Given the link between deforestation and high external debt, debt-for-nature swaps are presented as a policy option that could bring about improvements both to forest management issues and to reduce external debt.