Cuba: It Might Seem Stupid but…

By Fernando Ravsberg

Stevedores in the Port of Havana. Photo: Raquel Perez Diaz

HAVANA TIMES — The Cuban economy would be on the increase if half of the Revolution’s guardian angels – those who dedicate themselves to monitoring what is written on every blog – spent their time chasing corrupt and incompetent officials who steal and destroy the wealth that other Cuban people generate.

This isn’t my idea but that of one of Cartas desde Cuba’s readers and it stems from the fact that the Comptroller General of Cuba reported that there were “losses” worth around 90 million pesos and 50 million USD, in some companies that had been inspected in Havana.

During the debate that then kicked off on the blog, many people asked why names of corrupt and incompetent officials weren’t made public or why we weren’t informed of the dismissal of company leaders or those sectors affected, just like the blog La Joven Cuba was “reported” in the press, for example.

Cuba can’t get rid of the blockade because that depends on the US Congress. However, a lot could be done to counteract State company “losses” in the millions, without which we will never reach the productivity needed in order to raise wages.

The country’s national economic situation is no joking matter. In 2016, over 5 billion USD were paid on the country’s foreign debt and, I imagine, that this year this expenditure will be similar. If the payments aren’t made there are few credits available and those which come, are loaded with huge interest rates.

As if that wasn’t enough, Venezuela has cut oil exports to Cuba, which the government pays for with medical services. Last year, only 55,000 barrels were delivered per day, around half of the amount that Cuba used to receive when things were going well, when they were able to use, refine and resell oil.

Making foreign debt repayments involve a great deal of effort but there isn’t any other way to become more involved in the global economy.

The situation needs to be changed urgently. In 2016, Cuba couldn’t pay some medium and short-term debts because they didn’t have liquid funds. The national economy needs to grow and in order for that to happen, foreign investment is vital; about 2.5 billion USD per year, according to Cuban economists.

However, these investments don’t come or, rather, they do appear but they get stuck in the marshy labyrinth of Cuban bureaucracy. And this is how foreign businessmen spend their days in Cuba, losing hope while they’re told perhaps, perhaps perhaps…

Last year was very hard and this year looks like it will be too. However, it could be a lot less difficult if things were handled more decisively against incompetent and corrupt officials that squander Cuba’s scant resources and possibilities for development, as Vietnamese economic advisers suggested to government officials.

Or maybe these officials are being dealt with and what Cuban citizens are missing is transparency to explain why provincial leaders are being arrested for having kept money from grants meant for home building or those who sell official passports.

Lisandro Otero said that capitalism is so uncertain that the population never knows what will happen, while in socialism, they never find out what happened. Maybe if we were told a little more about some of these cases, people would think twice before putting their hands in the State treasury.

There are some people who oppose the idea that there should be greater transparency because that way it would be public which leader “messed up” and why. With such information we could save ourselves at least from letting some known corrupt official, from a new government post, give us lessons on revolutionary honor.

“When they steal from the State they are stealing from you.”

To nobody’s surprise, there are a group of “super-revolutionaries” who dedicate their lives to blocking this information from ever reaching the general population. They fight against blogs, websites and within the national media against all of those who try to practice better journalism.

Their enemies aren’t those who – from a ministry – take part in people trafficking scams, or those who put a halt to foreign investment. Likewise, they don’t report those who rob social security funds or State company managers who lose millions of dollars.

According to them, the greatest danger that the country faces today are… bloggers. That’s why they dedicate article after article to attack any non-governmental statement in the blogosphere. They seek to convince the Cuban people that wiping the bloggers out of cyberspace is a matter of life and death for the Revolution.

With the very real problems that the economy is suffering, with the most powerful country in the world’s blockade still present, with hundreds of thieves diverting resources and with incompetent bureaucracy hindering the reforms process, looking for imaginary enemies might seem stupid and it really is.

4 thoughts on “Cuba: It Might Seem Stupid but…

  • Yes, I am concerned with the impact to my family in 2017. The loss of financial support from Venezuela and to lesser extend Brazil began to materialize in second half of 2016. The ramifications are still working way into the economy. It will be a year of shortages. There will be announcements of deals with China and others, but small potatoes. No country is going to put Cuba on their back, again. Even the Chinese are pushing for reforms in Cuba. China will not repeat the Venzuela mall investment, especially since they know Cuba can’t pay. Other trouble includes the faltering income from foreign medical services. Tourism is growing at a screaming pace, but can’t yet carry the economy. And the single largest source of foreign cash flow, $4 billion plus in remittences from Cuban diaspora is at mercey of Trump.

  • Just one problem Fernando: nearly ALL Cubans “liberate” goods from work. Octavio Paz once said (referring to old Mexico): “corruption is the oil and the glue of the system”. He meant: it makes it work (however ineffective) and it binds the subordinates to the elite which is equally corrupt. Ending corruption in Cuba would mean ending the State capitalist Stalinist system. That is something the lite can’t allow until they are sure that they can convert themselves in an equally corrupt capitalist oligarchy. Corruption will end when a morally responsible democratic system takes over. Not before.

  • I don’t necessarily disagree that the economic model is changing. I simply don’t see it as clearly. What changes that are taking place are being forced upon the regime. I believe things are going to get much worse before they get better.

  • Change to economic model is taking place. There is little choice but to make economy more efficient. No one is going to carry Cuba the way the Soviet Union and then Chavez did for decades.

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