Carlos Pereyra (Progreso Weekly)
HAVANA TIMES — The final session for 2015 of the National Assembly of the People’s Power ended Dec. 29 in Havana. I have read and re-read the articles published in the national media, and, like most Cubans, I’ve been left with the desire to read data, analyses and discussions. I presume that they occurred.
I don’t remember the number of pages of the report by the minister of Finance and Prices published in the press, but I do know with bitter certainty that I didn’t find in it the total national budget for the coming year. I was left with the legitimate desire to know how much money we have on hand and the amounts that will be allocated per sector.
I felt as if we in our house were unaware of the family budget, if we can maintain the regular expenses, if we need to increase them, or how tight we must tighten our belts. This lack of information pushes us apart, separates us, instead of bringing us together. At the very least they should inform us of the financial reality of the country of which we are citizens.
Information is the first essential step for participation. Its absence establishes a distance between the rulers and the ruled, the institutions and the citizenry.
Distance is a key word because, if we meditate a little about the strategy of those who aim to pervert the Cuban process, this word, “distance,” is the first step to a separation and later a divorce, the three steps taken practically by every couple that breaks up.
And every society operates on the basis of a contract, so, because I support the contract of the [Communist Party’s] Updating of the Cuban Project, my concern and my need to say what I think are inevitable.
At the same time, I wonder if the lack of published information has been appreciated in terms of its possible negative impact in the whole of the population.
No doubt, the announced raising the GNP in 2015 by 4 percent is a sign of success but it’s imperative that we learn what that means and how it was calculated. Why isn’t this figure explained in a visible, palpable and digestible manner? That’s a question that my compatriots ask in diverse ways and tones of voice. All you need to do is to climb into a collective taxi, stand on line at a bus stop or in any public place, and listen.
Why don’t our media deal with economic subjects in analytical depth, in a manner accessible to the population as a whole? Why don’t they put on the table the various ways to carry out the Updating Project that socialism permits?
They should clearly explain the juncture at which we find ourselves, instead of letting everyone puzzle over whatever is published. Or instead of letting others bamboozle us and lead us down the distance-separation-divorce road.
Returning to the GNP, let us recall that, on March 27, 2012, during a press conference at the National Hotel, Marino Murillo, the present minister of the Economy, leader of the process of Economic Updating and member of the Communist Party’s Politburo, predicted that, by 2015, 45 percent of the GNP would come from the “non-state” [what the government uses to avoid the term “private”] sector — cooperatives and self-employed entrepreneurs.
Did that ever happen? Reviewing the printed and digital press, we find that such information is conspicuously absent.
The fact is that the private sector’s contribution to the GNP remains an unanswered question. True, every prediction is just a probability based on different variables, so it is always subjected — under any system — to circumstances and factors.
But that doesn’t exempt the government from publishing the facts, on whether or not we have reached the figure foretold.
I remember listening to a deputy (who happens to be a noted TV presenter) as she asked what was happening to the much-discussed topic of the Wholesale Markets, which are of the highest importance to the private sector.
Their deficient existence — or total nonexistence — is creating “collateral damage,” because the self-employed entrepreneurs and the non-agricultural cooperatives are buying their supplies on the poorly stocked retail market, provoking shortages for the population at large.
Murillo’s televised response — which he illustrated by raising both hands as if they were the plates of a traditional balance scale — was the disparity between the value of the two forms of Cuban currency. The rate of exchange between the national peso (CUP) and the convertible peso (CUC) is 1-to-1 for state transactions, but 25-to-1 for private transactions.
At that point, the telecast was cut off, so I was left to figure out the explanation on my own. I hope that it was a lot clearer to the legislators. But I sure didn’t understand it.
The media and the communicators with access to the sources should try hard to follow the economic issues professionally and publish their findings in a manner that’s accessible to the citizenry. Questions are spreading through the streets, where the main actors in the process of advancement circulate.