The Missing Ingredients for a Prosperous Cuba

The country’s most valuable resource is its human potential. Photo: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

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.

Questions

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.


3 thoughts on “The Missing Ingredients for a Prosperous Cuba

  • July 3, 2021 at 8:30 am
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    An important article. For the many non-Cubans that love and support Cuba’s evolution, we wish to see Cuba adopt policies that work so that the economy can support the people and Cuban values. Less ideology and more pragmatism so that Cubans can live a good life. I believe that Raul had started the opening of the economy. Will Diaz-Canel continue – or has he lost courage?

  • July 2, 2021 at 1:22 pm
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    “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.”

    I am sure everyone who reads and contributes to HT totally agrees with the sentiment expressed. Absolutely, the most valuable resource Cuba has is the ingenuity, the motivation, the eagerness, the ability of Cubans to succeed in whatever endeavor presented in their homeland as long as they are provided with an unfettered working environment.

    Too many economic roadblocks have been put in the way for Cubans to manifest their potential abilities in whatever field be it in agricultural, tourism, education, sports.

    Betsy Anaya Cruz has outlined a number of areas the present communist Party has utterly failed to implement and as a result has contributed to the current state of static economic despair. Let’s take a look at a few.

    “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.” One can argue that a contradictory situation exists in “socialist principles” to defend, and the notion that the market exists in Cuba and as such its objective laws need to be recognized. Market forces do not recognize communist ideological principles.

    I doubt it very much whether the totalitarian Cuban government has any respect for market forces and will implement, at whatever cost or damage to its economy, only economic policies that align directly with communist ideology, particularly Cuban sacred Revolutionary ideology and not necessarily with economic laws proven to be worthy and productive “laws” in any other successful economic state, be it communist or otherwise.

    Yes, to superficial economic changes around the state’s edges the communist cadres cry, but wholesale, much required, desperately and drastically needed absolute changes, . . . ummm a little dubious, after all . . . what would Fidel, the Revolutionary patriarch, think about such complete counter Revolutionary economic changes? No.

    “Push for Direct Foreign investment especially in export services that bring in revenue in hard currency and ensure the necessary return for investors.”

    Before serious, sane foreign investors consider sinking their hard earned money into the Cuban economy, the Cuban government needs to decide immediately, because investors do not operate in the short term but long term, what is the acceptable fiat currency Cuba recognizes as legitimate and will totally support within its own borders, first? Changing currencies on the fly provides no confidence to an outside investor who needs to plan for the long term and needs stability in the country’s currency. Plus, any foreign investor wants guarantees, absolute guarantees in writing that his/her financial investment is protected from government interference or manipulation. Again, back to the market forces laws that operate in any progressive foreign markets that the Cuban communist government finds difficult to appreciate.

    The Cuban biotechnology sector has been able to find a vaccine for Cuba’s COVID cases and humanity’s wellbeing in just a year. Well done.

    Nevertheless, it is not this sector that drives a state’s economy towards its long term well being, towards feeding its citizens, towards providing freedom to all Cubans so that they have the will to use their entrepreneurial and business skills to advance economically.

    These latter factors can only come to fruition, checkout Vietnam and China, when the few communist Party leaders decide that giving their majority citizens some modicum of economic freedom, so that, hopefully, this will as Betsy Anaya Cruz announces, “ . . . create the right conditions for this to express itself, so we can all enjoy a prosperous and inclusive Cuba.” Hope so.

  • July 1, 2021 at 11:04 pm
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    one of most balance well-argued stories i have read in HT with losts of constructive critcisms
    of Cuba’s agricutlural mess, & failure to implement better policies over many years of debate.
    As a foreign journalist who has reported on Cuba many times I have also witnessed these
    glaring contradictions between the 1st world standards in their scientific/biotec sector and
    rest of its economy mired in a third world state-controlled inertia.
    Tom Fawthrop
    film-maker & contributor to Guardian UK and 3-part series for
    Al Jazeera TV In Depth on the Cuban health system

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