By Marlene Azor Hernandez
HAVANA TIMES — In previous articles, I have commented on the need to change legislation, create new institutions and especially the need for the Government to take charge of public administration that reproduce erratic public policies which cannot be rectified later.
Today, public policies regarding labor rights, state sector wages, freedom of cultural creation, infrastructure and education curricula and teacher salaries are all wrong.
The national housing policy is a vicious cycle whereby the State doesn’t have resources and it prevents the Cuban people and the private sector from meeting the population’s demands. Primary and secondary healthcare is in a pitiful state and this is reflected in the many systematic complaints that the Cuban people make all over the country, including the intermittent absence of over 160 medicines, according to official statistics.
Pensions are extremely low and they aren’t enough for pensioners to even eat an entire month. Social welfare is no longer universal and benefits are no longer enough for the most vulnerable groups in society to live off. Twenty-four hour access to drinking water is a privilege that only 5.7% of the Cuban population enjoy. The rest are forced to invest time and everyday resources to get it. These are public policies that aren’t corrected and when they are, these new policies block the population’s access to vital goods and services even further.
The way public policies are being managed is wrong and it takes years to change something. When they are amended, like for example the new Labor Code, it’s to violate workers’ labor rights even more, negatively affecting their freedom of work, seizing wages in some sectors, collective work contracts, union freedoms and the right to strike.
Even though the Communist Party is the supreme manager of society as stipulated in the Constitution, it’s necessary to create institutions outside of any political organization in the country’s present and future. For it is only outside of any political party’s control that institutionalism has ensured the most solid institutions in countries with greater prosperity and the highest indexes of Human Development in the world. Cuba has fallen from 51st place on the Human Development Index list to 67, between 2013 and 2016, according to information from Granma.
Cuban lawmakers need to become professionals in their public roles at Parliament.
One of the proposals put forward has been to cut the number of lawmakers by half, from 612 to nearly 300 and this be the number of all representatives across the country like it is today. Approximately-speaking and by law, 50% of the current Parliament members have been elected by their districts. The other 50% are figures who have been hand-picked by the State Council, which includes Ministers, who shouldn’t form a part of Parliament. The other proposal is that Parliament session all year round and that members of the assembly be professionals in public administration.
Up until now, many representatives from the country’s central and eastern districts currently live in Havana and don’t know their district’s problems, only indirectly. This malfunction needs to be worked out so that they can be real lawmakers who really know what is going on.
The chance lawmakers have to create laws is pretty much inexistent in practice today and reduced by law. Public policies are unconnected to parliament members who aren’t aware of them and don’t have the chance to correct them, only listening to what government ministers tell them in their lectures. The incapacity of district representatives has been the most well-known example of this long series of public administration problems that have been repeated over the past 40 years.
Without changing laws, institutions and public policies, the country will continue to be sunk in crushing poverty, with public administration that only aggravates the population’s unhappiness and does nothing to resolve any of their built-up problems. Long silences about public policy and their possible changes aren’t a sign of good governance or governability in the country. This is the first lesson Cuba needs to learn in public administration.