HAVANA TIMES — Finally, Cuba’s telephone company ETECSA seems to have heard the people’s cries and has improved its previous offer, benefiting users of their service and the country, which receives a lot of hard currency for top-ups made abroad.
No other Cuban company has been the target of so much of the Cuban people’s criticism as well as that of some government media. Their inefficiency in developing new technologies, their price policy and slow internet, are the most common complaints.
However, up until now, the company appeared to be impervious to its customers’ annoyance, which makes sense if you take into account the fact that they have nothing to fear. Cubans have no other alternative because ETECSA is the only telecommunications company in the country.
Their monopoly control of the market has allowed them to do whatever they want, establishing regulations and prices at its whim. This has led to Cuba having very limited Internet access, with skyrocketing prices, incredibly slow as well as very expensive long distance calls.
Owning a telecommunications monopoly is the dream of many private business people but in some capitalist countries, like the United States, laws have been issued so as to stop them from having absolute control of the market, protecting the rest of the business community and customers.
In capitalism, such an attitude is logical because one of the fundamental incentives behind private businesses is to create the greatest profits. However, that shouldn’t be the dynamic in socialism, where state companies are owned by the people.
How then can you explain ETECSA, which belongs to the people, denying these same people mobile phone services for years? And that today, being a “socialist state company”, it treats users as if they were customers who they don’t owe any explanations to?
A State-run company should ensure that they provide an efficient and cheap service to the people, because they exist thanks to them, even more so in the case of telecommunications, a public sector where Cubans are both users and the owners of the company.
Their accounts should be transparent so that everyone knows how they use their money. It’s development plans should be public knowledge, with clear objectives and marked out timeframes so that the efficiency of its management can be assessed.
Journalist Ignacio Ramonet has said that in order for there to be true democracy in the world, we should be able to vote for the leaders of large corporations, those who control the international economy, imposing their strategies and financing political campaigns.
And in the case of Cuba, the democratic process would be much more real if, as well as neighborhood representatives reporting back, the CEOs of large state companies should also report back to the people, some of whom influence people’s lives more than the National Assembly of the People’s Power.
It would be interesting to know, for example, the public’s opinion about how to develop telecommunications in Cuba. Some people believe that it would be more intelligent to authorize the existence of several state-run phone companies which compete among themselves.
It’s true that resources would be spread out but it’s also true that this competition would force them to be more efficient in reducing their costs and offer a cheaper and better quality service. The great winner in this situation would be the people-owners of these companies.
Orthodox Communists don’t have to worry, the fathers of Socialism said that the fundamental means of production should belong to the State but they never recommended making them monopoly companies, with absolute control of the national market.
What’s more, if I remember correctly, dialectical materialism says that contradiction is the drive behind progress. If this Marxist principle were applied to the Cuban business system, more efficient means of production and services might exist than the ones we currently have.