Reading Cuba’s New Reforms (II)

Daisy Valera

Photo: Irina Echarry

Reading the new economic reform guidelines recently approved, one can also find some news items that are not insignificant:

An attempt will be made to prevent price differences within the state supply network, and the option of contracting out people to work abroad will be contemplated.

Also up for consideration will be the government receiving compensation for humanitarian assistance.  This includes sending doctors and other professionals to remote countries, which puts the quality of health care on the island at risk, a growing concern with many citizens.

In a line related to investment policy, there appeared a new but indispensable guideline: Number 117, where priority will be given to investment in rehabilitation and construction.

However it isn’t left clear as to whether construction will be only for tourist facilities or if it will be directed to addressing the enormous housing deficit, these lines constitute a light breeze of hope for thousands of over-crowded families.

In passing, this section of the document insists on preventing spontaneity and improvisation in investments.  Since it seems that we’ve had enough of that, now it will be necessary to see if that inertia can be broken.

Social policy: A main concern

Although they speak of reintroducing the importance of work as a form of making an income, they don’t say if they’ll really increase wages.

In the new Guideline 143 they speak of continued reductions in expenses in the social sphere, with the justification being that in this way they can invest in health care, education, culture and sports.

This is a curious proposal, because a few lines later in the document there appear others that speak of reducing expenses in those same areas.

It’s speaks of graduating more technicians and skilled workers because this is what is demanded by society, though this seems to be another way of saying they plan to cut back on university education.

Guideline 156 talks about consolidating the use of the clinical methods in health care in order to rationalize the use of technological resources for diagnosis and the treatment of illnesses.

In the area of culture, all activities will be evaluated as to whether they can be moved out of the government budget to operate in the commercial sector.

In terms of social security, the government continues to look the other way, and signs are it will further reduce the social security allocation.

Wages will increase, in first instance, for those who carry out activities that impact on the country’s economy.

Workforce restructuring will continue, applying the principle of “demonstrated suitability,” this clearly puts youths seeking work in the public sector in a difficult situation.  This has as its objective — as I’m sure you’ve already guessed — to reduce government spending.

No free lunch

Summarizing the part on subsidies and gratuities, one can say that there won’t be any more subsidies and much less gratuities.

The ration book will be eliminated along with most workplace cafeterias.

Social assistance (welfare) will be offered only to those who cannot work and those who don’t have families; people will have to meet those two conditions.

It is as if families don’t exist where everyone works, and even in these cases they will still need to be assisted by the government.

Although many thought this wouldn’t be done, approval was granted for the construction of golf courses, thematic parks, spas and other facilities geared to tourism.

However, they also authorized the buying and selling of cars and housings between private owners.

Unfortunately the construction of housings must wait for some time in the future, depending more on people’s own effort and less on the intervention of government resources, which accumulate out of those same workers efforts.

Likewise, the charge for water services will no longer be subsidized.

Analyzing the economic reform guidelines can end up being a very long process, the fact lies in that the almost 1,000 delegates that approved the document in the party congress have set in motion deep changes on the island, and who knows if these are irreversible.

However it’s better we not lose our sense of humor, because the Cuban government has arranged things in such a way as to spend increasingly less on its budget, so at least someone came out on top.

While we workers are supposed to follow the slogan: “From each according to their ability, to each according to their work”, it looks to me like classical liberalism is starting to make a comeback in style.