By Betsy Anaya Cruz (IPS-Cuba)
HAVANA TIMES – Last year, 2020, was plagued with challenges that we still face today: the scourge of the COVID-19 pandemic, the resulting economic standstill, the drop in export revenues and a tougher US blockade which seeks to suffocate the nation, for its own interests.
In spite of this difficult situation, Cuba has managed to develop five potential vaccines to fight COVID-19, two of which have been clinically proven to be effective: Soberana 02 (with a 62% immunization rate with two doses) and Abdala (with a 92.28% immunization rate with its unique three doses). This news was announced recently, and the Cuban people are over the moon. It’s a great feat, there’s no doubt about it, especially in this year that has been so difficult for the world and Cuba.
The fruit of over a year’s worth of hard work, these vaccines are the result of our scientists’ wisdom and self-sacrifice, who are the most valuable resource Cuba has: its human potential. It shows us just how much can be done when there is a willingness, ingenuity and determination.
My backwardness as an economist over the past 16 years, and my commitment to Cuba’s progress, make me ask the inevitable question: Why hasn’t this same energy been invested into launching the national economy? I’m not dismissing all of the efforts and measures that have been made over the years with this question, but I do believe that speed and coherence have been lacking.
On July 26th 2007, General Raul Castro gave a speech in Camaguey City, in which he examined the Cuban economy’s most critical problems, with a special emphasis on insufficent food production and the resulting dependency upon imports to ensure the Cuban people can eat. He also called for an untying of the knots that are handcuffing forces of production in the country.
In 2011, the Updating the Cuban Economic and Social Model process began and the guiding document was the Economic and Social Policy Guidelines for the Communist Party.
Almost fourteen years after this speech, the knots that tie the hands of Cuba’s forces of production are resisting efforts to untie them. Ten years after the Updating process began, the main structural transformations the Cuban economy needs are still pending.
The most pressing include:
– Define the key means of production, which are the ones the State needs to focus on.
– Seek coexistence between the centralized government plan and the market according to the socialist principles we defend. They need to recognize that the market exists and has objective laws.
– Transforming state-led companies so that they really do constitute a building block of our system. With real autonomy and the ability to manage themselves.
– Eliminating the monopoly over foreign trade, so that everyone wishing to import and export can do so directly.
– Legally recognizing private property just like the new Constitution stipulates, which was voted in by our people.
– Encourage all forms of property, including cooperatives and promoting the links between these in order for the country to make progress.
– Push for Direct Foreign investment especially in export services that bring in revenue in hard currency and ensure the necessary return for investors.
– Revitalize production of goods for national consumption and exports, with an emphasis on food production and focusing on value chains.
If our biotechnology sector has been able to find a vaccine for our people’s and humanity’s wellbeing in just a year, I believe it’s possible to generate a positive impact on the economy in the not-too-distant future, that brings some respite to the tough situation the country is experiencing right now.
Let’s put the same heart and soul into it and “cut” the knots that tie our forces of production once and for all, like a dear colleague would say. We have plenty of creativity and want it enough. Let’s create the right conditions for this to express itself, so we can all enjoy a prosperous and inclusive Cuba.