As Cuba Tries to Avoid a Total Collapse

By Pilar Montes

Photo: Jorge Luis Torres

HAVANA TIMES — I sometimes think Cuba’s development ultimately depends on the intelligence of its inhabitants. A million people with higher education degrees and the advances the country has made in the fields of biotechnology, the pharmaceutical industry and medicine confirm this impression.

The productive forces liberated at the beginning of the revolution, however, became bound hand and foot as time passed and, recently, an imminent collapse became evident internally –regardless of the renegotiation of the foreign debt or the lifting of the US blockade.

The slogan of a “prosperous and sustainable” form of socialism emerged years ago, but this proposal is still far from having the form required to advance with the impetus required.

The sectors that are making progress more quickly, healthcare and education, are essential to society, but they are not productive spheres. Some will surely say that exporting professionals in those and other sectors brings dividends to the Treasury, but they ultimately do not put food on the table for citizens.

Obstacles to Overcome

State companies, the foundations of Cuba’s economy, are fenced in by internal walls comprising up to five levels of decision-making mechanisms and aren’t entitled to invest their incomes in their own expansion and modernization.

Photo: Kathryn MacDonald

The more privileged State companies were recently authorized to decide how to invest half of their profits, may apply wage incentives and take other liberties (sometimes making ill use of these).

Of the million and a half State employees who have bureaucratic positions (employees who, it was announced five years ago, were to be reassigned to other spheres, with new functions, or join private or cooperative businesses), only half a million have been transferred out of their unproductive positions.

The so-called “non-State” or private sector is still not acknowledged by the constitution and existing legislation. When these individuals services are contracted by the State – a practice that is now authorized – they are not paid on time and aren’t offered wholesale markets where they can purchase the supplies they need for their work.

The banking system has been instructed to offer credit to these private entrepreneurs and to cooperatives, as well as to citizens who are building or repairing their homes, but these credits aren’t requested because people lack timely information about the requirements and their contractual obligations.

The most recent audit conducted by the Comptroller General’s Office of the Republic of Cuba, undertaken from November 2 to December 11, 2015 in 396 different State entities, revealed that 58 percent of these businesses offered deficient or highly deficient internal controls. Only 42 percent obtained a satisfactory rating.

Foreign Financing and Investment

Following the renegotiating of Cuba’s debt to the creditors of the Paris Club and the generous pardoning of debts to numerous countries, the foreign sector of the economy currently has access to fresh financing, though, after the grace period has ended with respect to interest, the country will have to begin payments within the agreed-to terms.

During a meeting of Chamber of Commerce associates, a Ministry of Foreign Trade and Investment official regretted the way in which financing for projects was being lost owing to delays in submitting the required, up-to-date documents to international entities.

Though I do not question the aptitudes of the executives called on to submit such documents, I think there are internal obstacles standing in the way of the approval of these processes and a lack of knowledge about how the current world market operates, quite different from the preferential treatment once afforded by socialist bloc countries.

Putting the House in Order

We continue in the struggle.  Photo: Juan Suárez

All of this leads me to the conclusion that the US blockade, which we have endured for over 50 years, isn’t what stands in the way of the dynamism of our productive forces, even though it is an obstacle.

We must mix up the earth to sow development, with the tools we have and through the enthusiasm of those young people who haven’t left the country and are betting on change.

And time is short as the Armageddon is right around the corner.

It will come hand in hand with the entire economic prowess of European and US companies; double the number of tourists who will look for and possibly be unable to find a place to stay, and the cruise ships that won’t have where to dock at the port.

We must avail ourselves of the opportunity afforded us by the fact we are now “in vogue,” at a time when not only the Rolling Stones are announcing concerts on the island.

In ten days, one of the most important gatherings of our country, the Seventh Congress of the Cuban Communist Party, will take place, but not even Party members [which make up around 10% of the population] have had access to the main report that is to be debated during the meeting.

It’s imperative that one of the most important proposals of the revolution be realized soon, to change everything that needs to be changed.


7 thoughts on “As Cuba Tries to Avoid a Total Collapse

  • April 7, 2016 at 6:36 am
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    ….and then you wake up right?

  • April 7, 2016 at 6:35 am
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    You have been told correctly.

  • April 6, 2016 at 1:46 pm
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    Credit and economic development are based on faith. This can only be achieved from history and or collateral. From what I have been told existing Cuba has none of either to back future investment.

  • April 6, 2016 at 10:23 am
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    In his classic justification of the existence of the state, Thomas Hobbes, over four hundred years ago, pointed out that no single man, no matter how powerful is strong enough to overcome more than a few of his fellows, should they choose to oppose him. All leaders, democratic or otherwise, stand at the apex of a pyramid of supporters, and the leader who simply takes his supporters’ support for granted is foolish indeed.

    It must be the case that among the million members of the Cuban Communist Party there are many who are concerned about the poor performance of top-down mother-knows-best state-socialism, even if, at the same time, they get some degree of privilege from their Party membership.

    So this upcoming Congress shouldn’t be assumed to be just a rubber-stamp session. It may be, but it may also be the arena where genuine discussion about the island’s future takes place, and popular dissatisfaction with the current state of Cuba’s economy is reflected.

    Perhaps there will be some courageous Communists — and no matter what you think of them, we have seen plenty of examples of courageous Cuban Communists — who will stand up and propose some radical changes towards a socialism with Cuban characteristics. What needs to be done is pretty simple, although, as von Clausewitz noted about military strategy, often the simple things are difficult to do in practice.

  • April 6, 2016 at 9:05 am
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    Which was exactly my point and why I highlighted the quote… not even the Party members have access to what is going to be debated…

  • April 5, 2016 at 11:00 pm
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    I disagree that the Seventh Congress is all that important. After all, it is still a dictatorship.

  • April 5, 2016 at 1:31 pm
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    “… In ten days, one of the most important gatherings of our country, the
    Seventh Congress of the Cuban Communist Party, will take place, but not
    even Party members [which make up around 10% of the population] have had
    access to the main report that is to be debated during the meeting…”

    Classic.

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