Cuba’s Workforce and More Sacrifices

The chicken and the egg dilemma of productivity and wages

Fernando Ravsberg*

Increasing productivity is not always in the hands of workers.

HAVANA TIMES — Some days ago, the official newspaper of Cuba’s Communist Party, Granma, referred to the need to improve the country’s productivity and thus increase salaries, calling on workers to make greater sacrifices with a view to creating more wealth (the only conceivable way of improving wages).

The truth of the matter, however, is that achieving greater productivity and efficiency is often not in the hands of Cuban workers, but rather depends on their company’s managers and the bureaucratic structures created by the government to control and centralize these.

Two of these nefarious institutions, Acopio and Housing, have already been dismantled. The former was renowned for its inefficient distribution of harvested products, while the latter had become a seedbed of corrupt officials who profited from the country’s housing shortages.

Much, however, remains to be done down the road of debureaucratization. It is a Gordian knot that will prove impossible to untie without the determination to implement radical measures. Without the disappearance of certain structures, it will be impossible to make any headway.

It is also advisable that everyone begin to restrict themselves to doing their jobs. I would dare say that Cuba is the only country in the world in which the Ministry of Transportation decides what brand engines the buses that transportation companies import must have.

Without ensuring farmers have the supplies they need, no substantial headway in agriculture can be expected.

Unlike in Cuba, importers in other countries do not decide what is to be bought and from whom. Their function is limited to doing the paperwork that is required to have the products or equipment that clients decide to purchase go through customs.

All the problems created by bureaucratic corruption make it very difficult for companies to operate. These suffer from such things as the import of US engines for which there are no spare parts available or because medical equipment is left to rot at Customs, waiting for importers to go pick them up.

Over the past few days, I found out that more high officials working at Cuban importing companies had been detained. At least one such official is imprisoned every month and this does not manage to put an end to the corruption that is gnawing at these companies from within, to the sale of contracts to those who pay the highest “commissions.”

The authorities have also just convicted an important foreign businessman who stole tens of millions of dollars from the country thanks to these mechanisms. How many more such detentions are needed to make them understand that the current bureaucratic labyrinth is what facilitates corruption?

Cuban companies are bound hand and foot. They have to consult nearly every decision and do not have the freedom to administer their profits as they see fit. Some even have to ask permission to hire a cooperative or self-employed businessperson for a specific service.

Those companies that are actually productive and efficient aren’t allowed to freely reinvest their profits. On the contrary, they are milked dry through the application of an arbitrarily established parity between the US dollar and Cuban peso, an exchange rate set in order to finance the unproductive companies.

Productive companies are not authorized to freely re-invest their profits.

The workers are not the ones who created these mechanisms. They are not the ones who appoint incapable or corrupt managers, nor are they the ones who invent needless bureaucratic structures, let alone the ones who decided to establish a two-currency system.

Asking farmers to increase yields without making the supplies they need available will not produce results. Nor will pressuring workers to be more productive, not when the equipment isn’t working for lack of spare pieces.

It is a question of planning the economy in such a way that productive processes aren’t halted for lack of foresight, that company managers pay for inefficiency with their jobs and legal punishment for corruption becomes more severe.

Paradoxically, a person who steals from a home can face a harsher sentence than those applied to the minister who was speculating with the food of all Cubans or those implicated in the death of dozens of patients at a psychiatric hospital in Havana.

Granma asks which came first, wages or productivity, comparing the issue to the dilemma of the chicken and the egg. This, however, is only scratching the surface, for it will be very difficult to improve results while the country’s company management structures and systems remain the same.
(*) Visit the blog of Fernando Ravsberg.


8 thoughts on “Cuba’s Workforce and More Sacrifices

  • It doesn’t describe me in any way, and has no relationship to anything I’ve posted on this site either.

    It absolutely is a deliberate personal attack. You’re intentionally trying to belittle any opinion that differs from your own, by attaching it to an extreme position that nobody holds. It’s petty and childish.

  • It was not intended as a personal attack. Your comments reflect your support of the Castro dictatorship. Merriam-Webster defines ‘sycophant’ as “a person who praises powerful people in order to gain advantage”. Does this not describe you perfectly?

  • Give it a rest with the “Castro Sycophants” B.S. It’s hard to take anything you say seriously when you continuously make personal attacks like that.

  • Brrr, there is a perfect storm approaching. The Castros literally, at 80+ years of age, have one foot in the grave. The aging population in Cuba, coupled with record outmigration, holds little hope for a youth movement in Cuba. Finally, with the inevitable decline if not collapse of the Venezuelan nursemaid, the Castro economy will be forced to stand on its own similar to what took place with the collapse of the USSR. This trifecta of negative factors has never occurred all at once in the last 55 years. While Castro sycophants like you would like to believe that because Cuba has ‘survived’ this long, anything is possible this is simple not true. Reminds me of the guy who fell from the 55 story building. As he passed the 30th floor, he could be heard saying “So far so good”.

  • “Either way, it is not long for the world.”

    …and it hasn’t been for 55 years and counting….

  • State capitalist economy to those who feel too ashamed to call it a socialist economy. But to the rest of the idiots who choose to bury their head in the sand while wearing their Che t-shirts, Viva socialismo. Either way, it is not long for the world. Like feudalism and mercantilism, the next generation will have to learn about socialism/state capitalist economy from the history books.

  • Cuba has a state capitalist economy . It is run from the top down.
    It cannot be considered a socialist economy unless that economy is run by the workers from the bottom up.
    If you live in Cuba you should know the difference unless , of course, you wish to believe the government on what IT calls the Cuban economy .
    And no I won’t respond to any relies, just ignoring Matthew 7:6 for kicks.

  • In short, Cuba’s pursuit of Socialismo under the Castro family regime has been an economic disaster for everybody except that family.
    The Castro family regime has cleverly manipulated and manouvred itself into a position of total power and control, lining the piggy bank all the way whilst accusing others of corruption.
    The “system” is not designed for the subject people of Cuba and the fact that they live dreary lives and daily have to “resolve” the challenge of how to eat tomorrow, is of no concern whatever to the dictatorship.
    Cuba is socialism in practice and in reality.

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