By Vicente Morin Aguado
HAVANA TIMES – July 25th marks the beginning of the annual Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy (ASCE) conference, with dozens of professionals, representatives from universities and other organizations based in the US, other Latin American countries and Europe, guaranteed to attend. Economists living in Cuba rarely accept these invitations as the Government in Havana hasn’t given their presence at the event a thumbs up.
Professor Silvia Pedraza, from Villa Clara and the head of the Sociology Department at the University of Michigan, has been the Association’s president since last year. She outlined the association’s mission in July 2018:
“ASCE is one of the many Cuban-American institutions founded to preserve the legacy of its founders, and to continue to contribute to their birthland, contributing towards its future as a single nation.”
With a great deal of optimism, facing the crossroads of an inevitable generational gap, the Professor said that “Next year (2019), we will double the number of professionals attending today!.”
Before going into a new conference, our interviewee responds to the challenge at hand:
“ASCE has been growing. I believe that you will see at this conference that we have managed to attract more mid-career professionals and young people.”
The 24th edition of the Conference has invited experts to take part under the title “Cuba: Growth or Decline: Is the Revolution Dead?”, thereby confirming a significant turnout of speakers living on the island, who will deal with issues as varied as the New Constitution, agriculture, social problems linked to modernity, including the Internet and LGBTIQ rights, as well as self-employment. The latter counting on the presence of active business owners in their country, an ASCE initiative which has already been running for five years.
The 3-day program focusses on the 60 years of Revolution, a title that appears frequently in several studies that can be considered more important a priori, University of Pittsburg’s Emeritus Professor Carmelo Mesa Lago particularly stands out in the program, as he will open the plenary with his conference “The Cuban Economy After 60 Years of Revolution: Continuity and Change.”
Key issues on the international scene will also be dealt with in detail, especially Cuba-US relations marked by the Trump administration’s hostility by lifting the waiver on Titles III and IV of the controversial Helms-Burton Act, along with geopolitical issues in the Caribbean, where Oil, Cuban cooperation efforts with Venezuela and disputing powers (Russia and the US) will take precedence.
An extremely telling detail about the conference? Well, for starters, graduates from Fidel Castro’s Cuba will be participating, who are now emigres in other places where they practice their trade with a great deal of success. The condition of a double experience, homeland and exile, gives their work a special interest to better understand the Cuban “problem”.
What can you expect from such a varied program? The ASCE President says:
“Economists and other political scientists who study Cuban society always have tangible contributions and constructive proposals for a better future for Cuba. Naturally, they stress the need for less superficial change so that the economy can continue to progress.”
It’s awful that such a great effort is being disregarded by those who have the obligation to listen to better proposals for the wellbeing of citizens who they claim to represent. There isn’t another meeting that deals with such a broad range of topics, and participants, within the circle of specialist Cuban economic studies.
One step ahead of Cuba’s ruling party and anticipating that phrase that is always repeated to try and discredit institutions outside of its control, calling them mercenaries, followers of Washington’s shady policy which is difficult to identify in practise, let’s repeat the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy’s president’s opinion on the eve of the upcoming annual conference:
“We prefer to fund ourselves, that’s why we’ve been running with so few resources. That’s also why we can tell everyone we invite that they are welcome without any kind of discrimination, because the program isn’t set by the Cuban government or its opposition, it’s laid down by the ASCE.”
Vicente Morin Aguado: [email protected]