The Cuba I wish for (1)
HAVANA TIMES — Cuba has been suffering from State-monopoly capitalism for 60 years now, where the government runs companies via officials who are theoretically loyal, most of whom are Communist Party members and are often corrupt or nepotists.
This management isn’t transparent; not just the citizenry lacks access to state-run companies’ accounts but the same goes for the national press, despite the businesses supposedly being “public”.
Cuba’s so-called “socialism” has been an appropriation of property and using all of the country’s resources, snatched from millions of hands to be concentrated in the few who have done (better yet, squandered) what they wanted to with all of a country’s financial resources. The results of this are clear to see.
In the Cuba I wish for, large services companies such as telecommunications, electricity or water, won’t be privatized, they will be socialized. This won’t limit their economic liberalization, it will support it, as the State will leave the financial controls of the system as society’s intermediary and society will run itself.
The privatization of large services companies has been a positive option in some countries, mainly those with a strong, stable democratic system that is upheld by a healthy economy, but in countries without this foundation, such as Cuba, too much privatization has led to further inequity.
Let’s take Cuba’s Telecommunications Company ETECSA as an example, I don’t believe I’m lying when I say that this company has the highest mobile phone and internet rates in the world, and the most old-fashioned service when compared to services other countries offer.
As a state monopoly (and therefore belonging to all Cubans hypothetically-speaking, we’d have to come to the conclusion that we are either masochists and we like to pay too much for a bad service, or it’s just not a public company, but a state company, which is like being a private company, almost a family-run business.
Many people advocate that the solution is to open up this market to other companies and create competition. I believe that another path is possible and I consider the take-over of these leviathan companies, which are poorly managed, inefficient and completely disconnected from civil control, to be an opportunity.
I reject the premise that having 4 or 5 companies in competition providing the same service will benefit customers is a verifiable fact. Four, five or ten private companies in every sector will easily come to an agreement to arrange prices, lay off workers, not invest enough or convert benefits into dividends.
Studies conducted by Richard T. Ely reveal that competition has made what were considered Natural Monopolies, referring to telecommunications, water or electricity services, cheaper. This can be proved, but were they made cheap enough? After a certain amount of time, are there any guarantees that companies haven’t set prices? Are regulatory bodies and politicians in the current system protecting customers still? In a system where benefit are converted into dividends, there are still ways for owners and politicians to form an alliance against masses who consume.
My proposal is that these companies become the property of everyone involved in their existence, from workers to clients. I’m not talking about handing out stock shares where the greatest purchasing power buys more and controls it, I’m talking about everyone being equally responsible. One user, one vote.
There’s no need to establish property, your right would come and go with being a customer or employee and we would all be responsible, albeit to a small extent, for keeping the company going. By using Information and Communication Technologies, the company’s accounts would be 100% public information and easily accessible so that matters relating to prices, large investments or expenses, debts, pay rises and the use of resources, are decided by these user-owners, democratically.
The body of owners will be the ones to elect their administration, and these administrations will manage day-to-day tasks, under everybody’s scrutiny.
Within this system, the owners won’t receive dividends as they won’t exist, but they will have them to use as contributions towards public education and healthcare budgets or to the Social Bank, which I will explain in my next article.
Socialization entails responsibility. As user owners we will have to make democratic decisions which we currently leave to a small group of experts chosen by the only political party. These or other experts won’t disappear, they just won’t be handpicked by the government and will form part of a public dialogue and organized by technicians, managers and user owners, this is the key to its success.
Motivation to keep us involved would come from the widespread perception that we are receiving servcies and paying a company which is using its resources to best serve our needs.
I can’t see why we would need more than one large national company or a few regional ones to efficiently and fairly run basic services if we have this system, where we all benefit and where we are all responsible in the Cuba I wish for, which might resemble the Cuba you wish for.