HAVANA TIMES — The Cuban government has finally decided to throw agriculture a life line, eliminating part of the bureaucratic apparatus that is stifling it. Some 6,400 administrative positions have disappeared with the State entity responsible for distributing the fruits of farm production.
The bureaucratic entity in question is known as acopio (“storing”) and it has always stood out for its inefficiency. It is responsible for the loss of many harvests and the poor condition in which nearly all products have reached consumers.
It seems they are now attacking the root of the problem, realizing that there are far too many bosses in agriculture. One cannot reap the fruits of the earth sitting behind a desk and writing up absurd restrictions, like the one that forbade farmers to build a home next to their farms.
The history of nonsensical measures is long and includes such episodes as a retired general who was not allowed to bring into the country a tractor given him as a gift and the order to save on wood by making posts for natural fences shorter (something that would consist in destroying them, as the cattle would then be able to eat the sprouts).
There is probably no ministry in Cuba larger than the Ministry of Agriculture and very few come close to it in terms of its results. Its headquarters are an enormous building located in Havana, very close to the seat of power but very far from the countryside and farmers.
That may explain why they took years to finally decide to listen to farmers who demanded that the price of tools and supplies be lowered, or when they explained to officials that, in order to work the land, they had to live and sleep on their farms.
Only a bureaucrat with a State-assigned automobile could think that a farmer can live in a town or city and travel to their plot of land every morning to work. Everyone knows that such farmers would lose all of their animals the first night they were away.
Over these past six years of reforms, the Cuban government had tried to have this gigantic apparatus transform itself from within and pull agriculture from the crisis that had bogged it down following decades of inefficiency, bureaucratic control, centralization and an excess of State control.
Things in agriculture, however, aren’t improving, and the government appears to want to go to the root of the problem to keep harvests from rotting out in the fields, farmers from going without payment and milk from disappearing while thousands of cows die of hunger.
A few days ago, the Secretary General of Cuba’s Workers’ Federation referred to the US $ 2 billion the country spends a year importing food products. The Minister of Agriculture next to him merely said that rice production had increased.
Vice-President Marino Murillo informed parliament, however, that nearly one third of the land in the hands of State companies is currently idle, while 90% of the farms in the private and cooperative sector are productive.
Minister of Agriculture Rodriguez Rollero later commented that the ministry would issue more flexible regulations for cooperatives, which account for two-thirds of the workers on farms and the greater part of Cuba’s agricultural and forest production.
This way, they seek to eliminate the obstacles that are holding back agricultural development. This is something positive because, if the ministry wishes to continue deciding on every issue through decrees, it will find it very difficult to map out the country’s major policies and to meet the needs of producers.
To do this, Cuba does not need hundreds of thousands of public officials, only a handful of capable experts. The rest can be offered the possibility of joining a cooperative or leasing out a plot of land, places where they will surely be able to keep an eye on all those details they like deciding on.
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