“Discussions” in the Cuban Parliament

Deputies to the National Assembly of Cuba almost always vote unanimously to approve the government’s proposals, projects and decrees with little or no debate. Photo: Roberto Suarez / Radio Rebelde

Here, unanimity is nearly the law, and every time some program or project comes up for “debate,” there’s nearly no debate.

By Francisco Acevedo

HAVANA TIMES – Parliamentary discussions are common in all parts of the world, some more strident than others, especially when there’s greater representation, as in nearly all countries.

Many videos circulate on the Internet depicting the most heated Parliamentary debates, including some where fistfights break out, sometimes over topics that aren’t even of great importance.

None of that occurs in Cuba’s National Assembly of People’ Power, that simulation of a Parliament we have. I’m not saying this just to hear myself talk, but because there really is no representation, even though Cuba boasts of being the nation with the second greatest feminine presence. Nor are their divergent voices, nor any real defense of the rights of the citizens whom the deputies are supposedly honoring.

Here, unanimity is nearly the law, and every time some program or project comes up for “debate,” there’s nearly no debate.

They meet twice a year for a few days

As is traditional twice a year, this month our Parliament met at the Havana Convention Center to take on next year’s budget, among other things. The budget is the probably most hairy Congressional topic anywhere else, but here the issue passes by without pain or glory.

No less than Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel allowed himself to joke that they’re discussing a Food Sovereignty Law when there’s no food; a Fishing Law when there’s no fish; and a Law for Furthering the Development of Cattle Raising when there are no cattle. If I said that out loud, I’ll go to jail.

Parliament president Esteban Lopez told the deputies: “You have no idea what discussions occur in the world around the approval of the national budget.” The least that comment sparks is laughter. His interest in making the remark was to emphasize the world economic crisis, as always, but to speak of this to an everyday Cuban is really ridiculous.

The 2023 budget, inflation and the foreign debt

According to the sums approved by our representatives, the 2023 budget will involve more expenses (23% of the budget) for Public Administration and Defense. That translates into bureaucracy and repression, because we don’t have any enemies we’d need weapons to defend ourselves from.

After that, 21% of the budget will go to Social Security and Public Health, an amount in accordance with normality. The next priorities are Education (19%), Social and Cultural Supports (3%), Sports (2%) and Other Activities (8%). Of course, anything can fit into that last category, with an assigned budget amount that’s nothing to scoff at.

Alejandro Gil, Deputy Prime Minister and also the Minister of the Economy, reported on the march of the economy this year and its projections. It’s worth stopping there a few moments to consider.

As had been expected, the plan for importations didn’t come to pass, nor the projected income in foreign currency. However, Gil declared, even though the 2019 numbers weren’t attained, we didn’t go backwards [from the year before]; that reflects the gradual process of recovery in which the country has been immersed since the middle of 2021. Hallelujah! The final straw would be that we were doing worse than during the pandemic.

With respect to inflation, the Minister indicated that the accumulated level up until October of this year was 29%, and year-to-year inflation – if compared with October 2021 – was nearly 40 percent. This, yes, is worrisome, he noted, because it affects the purchasing power of salaries and pensions, in short in the power of consumption of the entire population.

A country’s normal annual inflation should be around 10 percent, and 20 percent if measured year-on-year [compared with the same month a year earlier]. However, according to data from certain specialized sites (https://datosmacro.expansion.com/ipc-paises), only Argentina, Venezuela, Turkey, Indonesia, Zimbabwe and Lebanon had levels of inflation similar or above that of Cuba. Looking at some other countries, for example: Spain’s inflation was 5.5% annually and 6.8% year-to-year; in the U.S. the numbers were 6.8% and 7.1%; and Equatorial Guinea showed 4.6% and 4.9%.

What we have in Cuba is recognized as galloping inflation, because it represents price increases up to three times more in the course of a year. In reality, if we consider inflation here since the 2021 salary raise, then it classifies as hyperinflation, which involves increments of nearly 50% monthly.  Since prices for everything here are rising daily, it’s true chaos.

Energy production was the only topic that generated real concern among the deputies, because it affects everyone. In terms of that issue, it was stated that avoiding blackouts in 2023 will cost 500 million dollars.

This is complete hypocrisy if we consider that in December the electricity has been steadily maintained all over Cuba with no blackouts. That proves that when they want to – in this case because we’re at the end of the year and these are supposedly all festive days – there are no cutoffs. We’ll see in January that some thermoelectric plant supposedly breaks again, or they will blame it on the blockade being tightened.

One pivotal point is the list of basic approved drugs, in this case 627 pharmaceuticals whose purchase will also require over 500 million dollars. They optimistically announced that an improvement is projected. However, that’s what they say every year – later it’s a true Odyssey trying to obtain the needed medications, even for those who have the famous “card” and are prioritized.

In the same way, there was no criticism here because the blame is placed on outside factors, as always.

Speaking of outside, it happened that the United Kingdom has approved a suit against Cuba from a group of creditors. The amount surpasses 1.5 billion dollars and represents a tiny part of what Cuba owes to half the world. The country now has almost no credit anywhere, because the government doesn’t duly honor its commitments. And this isn’t even speaking of the billions in debt that have been pardoned.

This is fundamental, for economic growth, because we’re essentially dependent on Russia, China, Iran, and Turkey, nearly the only allies our government has left to help out. The rest are in the same situation as we are or have already tired of lending to us.

The worst thing is that this type of debt never expires, and even if there’s another president in the future, we’ll continue dragging this burden, which in the end is paid for by our working people, the same ones who are supposedly represented in Parliament, but in whose name and on whose backs they continue asking for money.

Read more from Cuba here on Havana Times

One thought on ““Discussions” in the Cuban Parliament

  • Stalin would have been proud.

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