By Marlene Azor Hernandez
HAVANA TIMES — There is a permanent “state of emergency” style of leadership in Cuba that stands in the way of Cubans participation in the legislative process.
Our Parliament only meets twice a year, a few days in July, another few days in December and even though the National Assembly has permanent Commissions, these do not report on their work the rest of the year leaving the Cuban people in the dark. We sometimes read about new decree laws issued by different institutions between one Parliament session and another, but these decree laws have not been consulted with the people or with their lawmaking representatives in Parliament.
There is a need to increase popular consensus so as to practice government not from the State Council, but from a community level. Many of these decrees are unilaterally approved by the people responsible for drafting them without taking into account the collateral damage of their new bans or new legislation.
Such collateral damage is being felt in the Cuban government’s new measures that were adopted on August 1st this year. Suspending the issuing of licenses to cooperative members’ as well as those for 27 self-employed activities was a bad decision with a negative impact on everyone who had been preparing to use their savings to invest in new family businesses. The more limiting regulations on building cooperatives has also had a negative impact on the pace of building in the country at a time when it is repairing the homes of those affected by Hurricane Irma.
The State doesn’t have the resources it needs to invest and immediately leave behind this national housing crisis that has been building up for decades. On the other hand, it is imposing new restrictions on creating any kind of cooperative, especially building cooperatives and the number of members they can have and new limits in the freedom they have to work all over the country.
The so-called “fine-tuning” process of the private sector by the State doesn’t mean that issuing licenses to the private sector needs to be stopped. The policy shouldn’t be “to freeze” licenses but to organize and regulate a kind of work that allows job growth at a time when the State’s labor force is being cut down, and it also allows people to earn wages that are in keeping with the price of the basic individual and family needs.
The announcement of new taxes on private sector wages is another mistaken policy in that the State is unable to pay wages that let the Cuban people satisfy their most basic needs and the private sector is absorbing the unemployment created by a continuous streamlining of the state sector, which the government has explicitly said is to increase productivity.
Measures of freezing licenses and clamping down on private sector rights are also leading to a greater shortage of goods and services and higher prices. Consumers are once again the most affected by this rise in bans and restrictions.
Every one of these measures has been passed without first being consulted with the Cuban people or their representatives in Parliament. It’s normal in Cuba that Parliament unanimously approves all of the decree laws that the State Council makes between the National Assembly sessions. Now we will have to wait until December for the Assembly to approve a series of decree laws already having a negative impact on producers of goods and services and consumers. Then, in maybe four years’ time the State will correct its policy which is only aggravating the country’s economic situation in every way possible.
This happened with the prohibition on lease-holding farmers of building homes on the land under their management in 2008, for the ban to then to be revoked in 2011. I don’t believe that the population can wait any longer to try and survive with dignity and legally within the country’s current economic crisis.