By Pilar Montes
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.
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
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.