News and Facts about Cuba

Cuba: An Economy Does Not Rise Selling Croquettes

Cuba: An Does Not Rise Selling Croquettes / Ivan Garcia #Cuba

Ivan Garcia, Translator: mlk

Some years ago, when the Politburo headed by General was

studying alternative ways to apply reforms capable of reactivating the

moribund island economy, Marino Murillo, fattened ex-colonel converted

to the "czar of transformations" said that Cuba was gambling by using

unproven methods in its transformations. It is not bad to think for

yourself.

The only thing that the proposal from the same group pompously in power

for five decades has demonstrated is the failure of its management. I do

not call into question the capability of Cuban economists and

technocrats. Although their pioneering theories have never resulted or

drawn attention in western academies or on a jury for the Nobel Prize,

audacity and experimentation are preferable to the habitual inertia in

closed and totalitarian systems.

Something had to be done. The economy had fallen by some35% of GDP, if

we compare it with 1989. After crossing a desert, where the mission was

to survive, with thousands of people desiring to emigrate, sparse and

very bad , 12-hour power outages and factories turned into museums

of idle machinery, applied some of the advice that Carlos

Solchaga — sent urgently by the Spanish Felipe Gonzalez in

order to advise tepid reforms on the island — whispered in his ear.

The patches permitted opening some individual work initiatives and

pockets of mixed economy. It was a stream of oxygen. Always with a lone

scowling commander watching the car's advance. When in Caracas there

appeared a loquacious anti-Yankee skydiver, declaimer of poems and

singer of Venezuelan dance tunes, Fidel Castro understood that the era

of facing those insolent gringos was back.

With high taxes, he locked and blocked the work on his own account. He

no longer needed that legion of "hucksters." People who demonstrated

that they could live better without the shelter of the State. While the

licenses of the self-employed expired, Castro I resumed the discourse of

Father State, he unsheathed the saber and anti-imperialist oratory.

Thanks to the Venezuelan Santa Claus there was light.

The bearded one was thinking big. Economic alliances with Latin American

insurgents that only worked in theory, energetic plans for revolution

and discussions about the properties of chocolate bars and baby cereal.

Suddenly he got sick. Cuba is like a family farm: after me, my brother.

Decided beforehand, it fell to Raul Castro to administer. So it was.

Castro II has his rules. He knows that in order to govern a long time or

to cede the dynasty to a son, relative or other trusted person, he

needed to ignite the economic plan. He had to make changes.

When one decides to make economic reforms, one must make them. For one

overwhelming reason: if the parallel utopia keeps living on news loaded

with optimism, inflated macro-economic figures and cheap nationalism,

the citizenry might lose fear and furiously explode on the streets.

The General's theory resumes the popular refrain of "full belly, content

heart." For the official technocrats, the Cuban is happy with rum,

women, reggaeton and hot food in the pot, as if we were modern slaves.

With enough food and options for making money, the crowd would ignore

that "foolishness about " and not demand democracy or a

multi-party system. That is why the sacred premise of Raul Castro is

" are more important than cannons."

The native reforms suffer from authentic reformers. It's the same breed.

Another weak point is the incompleteness of those reforms. Except for

the authorization to buy or sell a home, where an owner has the right to

do what he wants with his property, the other hyped liberalizations have

flaws. It is like a house over a swamp.

When Castro II gave the green light for Cubans to have mobile

telephones, he wanted to demonstrate that the regime was "democratic."

And he did away with " apartheid" when he permitted citizens to

lodge in hotels. On eliminating the two prohibitions, it was discovered

that under the command of Fidel Castro we had been third class citizens.

The Lease Law of the land has suffered several amendments in four years.

At the beginning land was rented for only ten years and the peasant had

no right to construct his home on the parcel. Later it was corrected. I

ask myself if it would not have been more viable to start from the

beginning with the option of renting the land for 99 years and license

to raise a house.

So it happens with the sale of cars. One can buy an old American car 40

or 50 years of age or a ramshackle car from the Soviet era. Now in order

to get oneat an agency requires permission from the State. It would be

simpler if anyone, money in hand, could buy a new car. It would end

price speculation and the framework of corruption that has been created

around the sale of cars.

Immigration reform also has deficiencies. To have to pay for a passport

in foreign currency is an anomaly. And an absurd law that the regime

grants itself, by maintaining a blacklist of professionals, athletes and

dissidents.

Another big problem, not approached by the General's reforms, is the

double currency. It has been talked about and debated, but the first

thing that should have been done is to implement a single currency.

Cuban workers pay the equivalent of 52 pesos for a liter of oil, 235

pesos for a kilo of Gouda cheese and from 360 to 1,200 pesos for a pair

of jeans. And they may only earn an average salary of 450 pesos. The

honorable worker, who does not steal on the job, lives the worst.

The government says that in order to raise salaries productivity must

increase. But the workers think that for so little money, it is not

worth the effort to labor with quality and efficacy. A vicious cycle

that the regime has not learned or wanted to cut. In four years of

reforms and six of Raul Castro's government, ostensible improvements in

the country are unseen. Cafes and trinkets have increased. More than 380

thousand people work on their own account and do not depend on the State

to raise their quality of life. That is something good.

But an integrated economy is not built selling bread and cakes. In great

measure, the government is to blame for the high prices of many

products,by not creating a wholesale market intended for private work

and maintaining quotas of 80% of agricultural production that a farmer

must sell at laughable prices to the State.

In 2006, when Castro II was designated President, a pizza cost 7 pesos,

now the cheapest costs 12. A haircut was worth 10 pesos, now it is worth

20. The list is long. In this rainy fall of 2012, the price of each

article and service is higher. Salaries have stayed the same for six years.

There is a crunch in the pockets. The segment of the population that

receives hard currency can keep paying for food and products of a

certain quality. But their money continues to lose value. 100 dollars in

2004 are worth 60 currently. Due to the 13% state tax on the dollar and

the rising prices, currency in the hands of those who receive

remittances has devalued.

Nor do people have much confidence in the reform managers. They are the

same ones who in one way or another brought the country to the edge of

the precipice. Cuba needs reforms. Serious, urgent and profound reforms.

According to Mart Laar, who was prime minister of Estonia and was at the

head of structural reforms in the '90's, the simpler the reforms, the

more successful they will be. Laar points out that in politics there is

only one sure thing: sooner or later you will be out of power. If fear

of reforming deeply is too great, you will leave sooner. And most

importantly, you will be out without have done anything.

These are not hollow words. Estonia is one of the nations that took a

giant leap, from a communist economy adrift to a functional national

project. Another case is Taiwan, where their own citizens initiated

changes knowing that they would lose power. Now they have returned it to

the government with a fresh start.

It is good think for yourself. But also you should learn from those

nations that have triumphed in their reform processes. It is worth it to

take account of experience. And logic.

Translated by mlk

December 1 2012

http://translatingcuba.com/cuba-an-economy-does-not-rise-selling-croquettes-ivan-garcia-cuba/

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