Some Pending Questions Regarding Cuba’s Economy

By Ernesto Perez Castillo  (Progreso Weekly)

Photo: David Pennington

HAVANA TIMES – Now that Cuba has a new constitution, a planned economy from now until 2030, an almost decade-long legislative calendar, and even a president, and prime minister, and although there is still much to do, we should take a short break to calmly consider the things that over time are forgotten or accumulated.

With the last salary increase, which was certainly hefty, although it only affected public employees, these persons who work now have almost half of what they require for their day to day needs. The truth is that it is little more than pocket money, but it is still much better than what they were previously paid.

And speaking of salaries — what people earn at their jobs — something I am not aware of but would like to know, for example, is how much our public officials earn. How much are ministers and vice ministers paid, for example. And while we’re at it, how much will future provincial governors and their vice governors get paid. 

We spend so much time questioning whether one’s salary is worth anything. And yet, we have no idea how much we pay our government functionaries, or how they manage to make a living, or even if what they earn is enough to protect them from the temptations of corruption.

We never question whether with their well-earned money they can sustain their families decently, or if their families have a hard time making ends meet, or must they tighten their belts, improvise, and overcome the temptation to, as we like to say in Cuba, “invent” on the side, or under the table, and turn a blind eye to some of the things that go on.

And, of course, I would also like to know how much we will pay our president for his noble work, and how many vacation days he or she will receive each year, and where they will live while in office. Things of this nature, in other words, a budget to keep the country running. All things that should be available to the public — discussed and approved. 

There’s more. I, who knows very little, also have no idea if we have any idea what we’re going to do with our president after he serves his long, 10-year constitutional mandate. Nobody’s told me or anyone I know the answer to that. It’s nowhere to be found in writing, or in black and white. It interests and concerns me: it deals with me and all of our pockets.

That is something that should have already been thought of. That person, and those who follow him in office, will face five to 10 years of very hard work … and then what? Hello and goodbye? Will he or she go on to some other post? Will they assign him or her a lifetime salary? Will it be enough for these persons to live comfortably, or will it be something symbolic, an empty formality, like the monthly payments received by the rest of the retirees, which makes you wonder if you really want to retire after a long life of hard work. 

And once retired, where will he or she live? Will they return to live in the house inherited from their parents? Or will we have a good and dignified place to offer them? In any ordinary neighborhood, or will it be a place apart?

There is still much to do in the days ahead, much to think about and much to decide, but it would be good to also anticipate these details, which should not be resolved on the spot, or at the last minute, or on a whim. It should be in writing, a law approved by parliament that leaves no room for abuse or excess — or ingratitude or forgetfulness. And if by chance these things are in writing and already approved, then we should have knowledge of them. In fact, we should be the first to know about them, because ultimately we are owners, and those who pay for them.

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