By Osmel Ramirez Alvarez
HAVANA TIMES – It’s a phrase that the Diaz-Canel government has picked up as a slogan: “Thinking like a country”. It would be great to do this. But we all must, and in every regard.
It’s an interesting and profound statement. Good enough to give the populist feeling that is being worked on or wanted to move the country forward, but really good if it’s free from demagogy. If it were really applied it in practice, it would be useful and constructive.
Let me give you a local example to show there is a lack of “thinking like a country” in the highest ranks of government, in the economy where it is most used. As most of you know, I also cultivate the land and plant tobacco. Some things had improved over the years, but others hadn’t because of bureaucratic hurdles, but assigning decent and efficient pesticides was something they had managed to work out. As well as a slight improvement in the rest of the supplies we need, although never completely.
But this year, the budget for tobacco farming was cut at a national level and they didn’t buy the pesticides that really ensure the best quality leaves grow. Others were assigned instead, which I’m sure were cheaper. This will clearly affect production. Even if production grows in numbers, the negative effect that this lack of foresight has is incalculable, as well as what we lose.
Ironically, a couple of guys from the Communist Party, ordered by their superiors, came to visit tobacco farmers asking them to commit to increasing production, but the reality is that they don’t have the supplies they need to do this.
Amidst a time when the current national economic crisis is only getting worse, tobacco is practically the only foolproof thing to substantially increase exports. The government has announced that the country isn’t covering the international demand and that the domestic market is also in deficit.
Why don’t they direct resources they already have to boosting this sector, prioritizing it at least by giving the same supplies it did last year? How can they cut a sector where revenue in foreign currency is expected and a sure thing?
However, we see military-owned companies building tunnels and channels for the Water Bypass here in this region, and they have been given priority in everything: new equipment, fuel and other supplies. This is something that won’t bring in revenue for decades or even longer given the fact that they can’t take full advantage of irrigation systems when it is completed, even the one that could be done using gravity, because of a lack of resources to built the hydraulic infrastructure needed.
Thinking like a country is putting the money the government has into the resources that can bring in revenue and quickly. But it’s very hard to overcome the mindsets and the bureaucracy of our domestic blockade.