“Calling things by their proper name”
By Guillermo Nova (dpa)
HAVANA TIMES — While some Cuban officials fear that economic reforms mean that capitalism will return to the island, Parliament has taken heed of president Raul Castro about “calling things by their proper name” and has legalized what is already a reality: the existence of small private businesses, which have been operating in a legal limbo up until now.
The discussion about private companies marked the 7th Cuban Communist party congress (PCC) which took place in April 2016, but back then, the over 1000 legislators who took part couldn’t reach a consensus about the documents that would define the socialist model in Cuba.
The “Conceptualization of Cuba’s Social and Economic model of Development”, as well as the “Guidelines for the Political Party and the Revolution for the time period 2016-2021”, are the documents that will define the social, economic and political future of this country, according to the Government.
At that time, the Cuban president asked Parliament to leave “euphemisms” aside because allowing independent workers to hire their own “workforce” led to these small private businesses existing in reality, but operating without the legal framework it needed.
In order to reach an agreement, the Cuban Communist Party continued the debate and held assemblies where over 1.6 million Cubans took part, according to what Cuban authorities have reported. These included Party members and affiliates of organized mass organizations.
After a year of discussions, the subject has finally been closed after the Cuban Parliament decided to recognize the existence of small private companies and to give them legal protection.
“The documents approved are programatic efforts which reaffirm the socialist nature of the Revolution and the role that the Party plays as the leading force in society and the State,” Raul Castro said Thursday at Parliament, quoted by the Cuban state-owned news agency CAN.
The approved measure is one more step in the economic reforms process that Castro has been pushing ever since he became president seven years ago.
At the beginning of his presidency, he extended the number of self-employment licences to 200 different types of work and he also allowed some cooperatives (non-agricultural) to be created, as before only agricultural cooperatives were allowed.
According to Cuban authorities, 535,000 self-employed licenses were requested in 2016, mainly in sectors such as small vehicle drivers, private room renters or food services.
The Cuban government wants small private companies to focus on the service sector, while the State keeps hegemonic control of strategic sectors such as tourism, energy or biotechnology.
One of the concerns that some Cuban officials have is that wealth will slowly begin to accumulate in individual hands if the small business sector expands in Cuba.
“The dominant form of management continues to be socialist property with the basic modes of production belonging to the people,” Marino Murillo, a vice-president and considered to be the “tsar of economic reforms” in Cuba, assured legislators.
After decades of all economic activity being in State hands, the slightest prominence of small business here would be considered by the United States as the seed of capitalism, which would lead to political reform on the island.
“As your friend, the United States wants to help you,” then US president Barack Obama said when he met with a group of the Cuban self-employed during his official state visit to the island in March 2016.
A month later, during the conclave of Cuban communists, Raul Castro warned the Cuban people of US interests.
“We aren’t naive, nor are we ignoring the influence of powerful external forces who are betting on the so-called “empowerment” of non-goverment management, with the aim to create agents of change in the hope that they bring about the end of the Revolution and socialism in Cuba,” stated Raul Castro.