For Cuba to Fight Corruption, Transparency is the First Step

By Fernando Ravsberg

Foto: Raquel Perez Diaz
Photo: Raquel Perez Diaz

HAVANA TIMES – “You cannot run a country today without transparency; without having a strategy for long-term development, with clear legal rules for all economic players,” said the minister of the economy, Marino Murillo.

Almost in unison the government announced that state businesses to be turned over to private hands must now be tendered, which implies that the offer is public, that all citizens have the right to participate and ultimately the best of the proposals is accepted.

“Applicants must deliver their offers in sealed envelopes and include their personal information, the possible activity to be performed, and certification or endorsement of experience in the business; in addition to their financial plan and project design among other things.”

Making these procedures transparent would leave less space for the corrupt to enter into the business of awarding locales to whoever gives them the highest payoff. It’s not that this is a full-proof remedy but creating some difficulties for criminals is a good start.

Experts believe that transparency is the first step in the fight against corruption. Then you have to take other steps because opacity and secrecy are the best breeding ground for the development of this global virus.

The comptroller, Gladys Bejerano, complains about the recycling of corrupt management, due to the lack of transparency. Photo: Raquel Perez Diaz
The comptroller, Gladys Bejerano, complains about the recycling of corrupt management, due to the lack of transparency. Photo: Raquel Perez Diaz

Cuba’s comptroller’s office has spent years fighting corruption but as soon as it cleans up one place the virus mutates and reappears in another. The lack of transparency in the hiring of management allows the dismissed corrupt to appear months later heading another company.

The comptroller herself, Gladys Bejerano, has complained about the recycling of corrupt officials. To avoid this it would be very useful to require a public profile for management personnel that reflect their performance in each previous position and the reasons why they were removed.

I remember that some time ago, bloggers of the La Joven Cuba website proposed that leaders and officials should make a declaration of assets on taking on a position and another when they leave, to check how honorably they worked.

Meanwhile, the path of transparency for Cuba is much more complex because of the fierce persecution their economy and finances are subjected to by the world’s greatest power. For over half a century anything said can be used against you.

Many companies trading with Cuba received threats from Washington, some investors were barred from entering the US and banks were fined billions of dollars. Secrecy was essential for Cuba and for foreign partners.

The economic war is not over but softened and it shows with the arrival on the island of hundreds of companies from all over the world seeking to do business, many of which did not dare before December 17, 2014, when the US-Cuba rapprochement began.

With more transparency perhaps there would be fewer managers in prison. Photo: Raquel Perez Diaz
With more transparency perhaps there would be fewer managers in prison. Photo: Raquel Perez Diaz

The secrecy and opacity were defensive weapons of the Cuban government in its struggle for survival but also the rug under which the corrupt and inefficient hide their dirt. That’s why the economic battle is lost in advance if transparency is not a requirement of management.

Most directors, managers and officials are members of the Communist Party, the “organized vanguard of the Cuban nation,” according to the constitution. Accountability over their public actions and personal assets would be the best source of prestige.

Being a member of the “vanguard” has advantages and disadvantages. They are the ones who set the course and pace of progress but are also required to be an example, taking the first step and then advancing in whatever direction is taken.

10 thoughts on “For Cuba to Fight Corruption, Transparency is the First Step

  • Very interesting Griffin! Is it possible that even those who are ardent supporters of socialismo could be involved in corruption?

  • The Charbonneau inquiry concerns bid rigging on construction projects in Quebec. The criminals and corrupt politicians should be in jail, to be sure. But it does not rise to the level of systemic & institutionalized corruption which characterizes Cuban under the Castros. Corruption in Canada does not seriously threaten our healthy and functioning liberal democracy.

    Canada ranks 9th least corrupt country in the world, with a transparency a score of 83. Cuba is way down the list at 56th least corrupt, & score of 47. Cuba’s client state, Venezuela comes in at 9th worst corrupt state in the world, just ahead of Iraq.

    So put it into perspective. Corrupt pols & construction firms in Canada do it because they think they can get away with it. Sometimes they do. In Cuba, corruption is a necessary fact of life for those at the bottom, and a normal perk of the job for those at the top. And the powerful in Cuba always get away with it.

  • It’s curious to read an article about corruption in Cuban state-run enterprises and not see any mention of the Panama Papers. The leaked documents of Mossack Fonseca have revealed the names of many Cubans ministers and military officers as directors of offshore businesses registered in Panama, Cayman Islands, and even Beirut.

  • I don’t think we are disagreeing. Without the right to organize at the local level, the grass roots will be dependent on intermittent anti-corruption campaigns from the top.
    Of course, if corruption is a symptom of a lack of democracy, then it seems that we in Canada don’t have as much democracy as we would like to think. Eg. check out the Charbonneau Inquiry.

  • That Ken is precisely the point! Cubans are not free and can not organize independently.

  • If the CDR’s and the local Communist Party groups are implicated in the corruption, then Cubans must be free to organize independently of them

  • Why would the CDR and local organizations of the PCC denounce corruption when it is to their benefit?

  • Maybe the first step is the public acknowledgement of corruption and the next step is greater transparency.
    The next step after that is greater power for local organizations. In many instances local people must see what is happening. So where are the CDR’s and the local organizations of the Communist Party? Don’t they have the power to denounce corruption?
    Anti-corruption campaigns from the top are better than nothing, but it will be better when local organizations have the self-confidence to denounce corruption as they see it.

  • Nothing is new, Cuba has had a policy of appointing members of the Communist Party of Cuba as managers, officials and directors of all the government and GAESA subsidiaries since the revolution. By so doing virtually without real consideration of the qualifications of those Party faithful, the regime has denied opportunity to those with appropriate talents and abilities for positions of responsibility.
    Such policies make a mockery of any real form of competition, they encourage corruption, inefficiency and laziness.
    In one of his last public statements on February 24th, 2013 at the PCC Congress Fidel Castro said:

    “The great battle to be imposed is the need for an energetic struggle without respite against the bad habits and errors being committed daily by many citizens including Party members in the most diverse spheres,”

    Raul Castro added his view of the problems which have developed in Cuba as a consequence of Fidel’s and his own dictatorships, on July 7th, 2013 when he said:

    “Thus part of society has come to see theft from the state as normal. There has been propagation of illegal constructions with relative impunity moreover in inappropriate sites, non-authorized occupation of housing, illicit marketing of goods and services, non-fulfillment of working hours, illegal cattle rustling and slaughter, capture of marine species in danger of extinction and utilization of the art of fishing, felling of forestry resources including in Havana’s magnificent Botanical Gardens, the hoarding of products in short supply and of bribes and their resale at higher prices, participation in games outside the law, price violations, the acceptance of bribes and privileges, preying on tourism and infraction of established regulations related to informatics security.”

    This litany of incompetence provided by Raul Castro, provides a most accurate description of the reality of Cuba and of the administrative, managerial and bureaucratic capabilities of the Party members holding the relative positions. Even the most ardent supporters of the Castro dictatorship who contribute to these pages, will find it difficult to argue otherwise.

    For Marino Murillo to at long last recognize that the economy for which he supposedly as Minister of Economics is responsible for administering is a mess, reflects years of basking in ‘socialismo’ theory whilst the economy falls further and further into the vortex, reflects his own managerial and administrative incompetence.

    Fidel and Raul Castro were correct in their analysis of Cuba’s problems, which they themselves did so much to create.

  • It is very hard for the ordinary hard working man or woman to open and succeed in business these days. I wish all those about to embark on the road to success all the very best, prepare a solid business plan, start small and be prepared to come across quite a few corrupt people along the way, however do not let these people deter you from your ultimate aim, which is to succeed, believe in your self and your ability and you ill succeed.

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