Raul Castro: From Improvisation to an Economic Model

December 19, 2012 | Print Print |

Vicente Morin Aguado

Raul Castro at the closing of the National Assembly (parliament) session. Foto: cubadebate.cu

HAVANA TIMES — For the first time in fifty years, what we might call “socialist pragmatism” seems to be guiding the steps of the president of our country. This is the conclusion I drew from reading Raul Castro’s closing speech a week ago to the National Assembly.

Castro clearly shows his intentions to scrap Frankenstein’s monster of an economy that we’ve had for decades. He’s trying to create a model he can leave to his successors, considering his age and his aim of not remaining in office for more than five more years.

In one of his customary short speeches, loaded with lots of Cuban praises, the successor to the historic commander-in-chief bluntly discussed the current economic situation.

He used phrases referring to the unsatisfactory outcomes of strategic investments for the country, saying: “We must go beyond the immobilism, superficiality and improvisation that persist with most of our investments.”

The president nevertheless reiterated the need to put our finger on the weak points, re-echoing his convictions. In one paragraph he stressed: “Along with the development of the theoretical conceptualization of the Cuban economic model, study continues concerning the foundations of the long-term program for development in different spheres of national life.”

Raul Castro continues to hammer away at the need to break with a mentality rooted in habits and concepts of the past. What’s especially interesting, though, is that this is his own past and the past of his older brother, the charismatic leader who finally stepped down as head of state about five years ago.

Raul’s concept of the economy points toward the creation of foundations upon which the Cuban socialist system can continue to be built – a system which he is committed to defending. He uses defining phrases related to the previous steps and those to come.

These include new methodologies for determining prices, the restructuring of the wholesale market, the creation of non-agricultural cooperatives, and the definitive overcoming of the dual currency.

However more details are needed, the lack of which is his dark point.

Our president refers to the gradual recovery of the credibility of the national economy, a commendable expression for the value implied in recognizing the contrary. He reiterates the need for debt payments, also noting that immigration reform is aimed not only at Cubans wishing to travel abroad but also at the expansion of rights to those who have already emigrated.

We must remember that for the first time in our history with a single party and its conferences, Raul Castro has determined that economic issues are the country’s central task; indeed these were the only one of the Sixth Party Congress. It seems that he’s reaffirming his intention to end improvised approaches by appealing to collective and institutional decisions, which were so often proclaimed by his predecessor but so poorly carried out.

Those who will come after him will recognize that he didn’t impose his will based on popular speeches at previously selected locations. He’s addressing the core issues of the country in those institutions created during the revolutionary process.

As such, Cubans will finally be able to see whether they made the right decision in voting for and endorsing the socialist system, which up until today they have.

To contact Vincente Morin Aguado: morfamily@correodecuba.cu


What's your opinion?

  • Moses

    The Cuban economy, despite Castro’s tepid praise, is failing with little hope of recovery without some serious foreign investment. This investment can not come fast enough if simply limited to family remittances. Cuban housing experts estimate a deficit of 1,000,000 homes in Cuba. Capital infrastructure is in serious decay and Cuba is unable to feed itself despite ample land and tropical climate. These are all macroeconomic needs which will not be resolved by microeconomic reforms. We are witnessing the painfully slow disintegration of yet another Marxist totalitarian regime. Castro is simply “rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic”.

    • Luis

      And what do you propose beyond those old-school slogans? Sell everything out at banana-prices like what happened in Russia in the 90′s? Please.

      • Moses

        Simply put: Set a date for open and transparent elections. Allow citizens to stand for election regardless of party membership. Permit foreign press and independent media to publish and distribute free of harassment. Permit foreign investment and ownership of property and light industry. In short order, economic and social indexes would soar. Sceptical, pay attention to Myanmar. Two years ago they were where Cuba is today. (Ok, not quite as bad but you get the point)

        • Luis

          “Set a date for open and transparent elections.”

          Elections in Cuba will only be ‘open’ and ‘transparent’ if Washington says so.

          “Allow citizens to stand for election regardless of party membership.”

          This already is the case for Cuba, you don’t have to be a member of the PCC to stand for elections.

          “Permit foreign press and independent media to publish and distribute free of harassment.”

          The foreing press is already on Cuba. And the ‘independent’ media of Cuba is not ‘independent’ at all. At least not from the USINT.

          “Permit foreign investment and ownership of property and light industry.”

          Raul’s administration has been pushing for these things in the last years.

          In short, you are like, 20% right in your proposals.

          • Moses

            Luis, what does Washington have to do with it? Open elections in democracy means an election that permits reasonably qualified candidates to stand for election come what may. While you do not have to be a member of the PCC to be elected, you may not be a member of any other political party as all other parties are illegal. While foreign press are indeed allowed in Cuba, they are severely limited in the access to news and when they publish news critical of the regime, they run the risk of being kicked out. Luis, please, don’t be unreasonable, Not everyone who disagrees with the Castro dictatorship is paid by USINT. It is just not practical. There are independent journalists from the left who believe in socialism as you do and disagree with US interference but who also disagree the Castros. They are also restricted and even imprisoned. Foreign investment will flourish in Cuba when Cuba permits foreigners to run businesses as they see fit. Perhaps you are not aware that Cuban employees of foreign companies are still paid by the Cuban government. They are hired and fired only by a government representative and not the foreign company. The foreign company has limited control over working conditions and expectations. This kind of control will not foster the kind of foreign investment that Cuba desperately needs. Finally, your logic regarding Myanmar is reversed. They made adjustments to their government and then the US lifted sanctions. They made steps toward more democracy and then Hilary Clinton visited and more steps and then President Obama visited. We still have our differences as Obama stated in his speech in Myanmar but we are recognizing their efforts. We would do the same if Cuba were to improve as well.

          • Luis

            “Luis, what does Washington have to do with it?”

            Please, PLEASE don’t insult my intelligence again. You are well informed and fully aware that Washington has EVERYTHING to do with Cuba’s internal matters.

            About parties and elections, you simply twisted what you said from the first place.

            About foreign press, all I see from it about Cuba is exactly the opposite – criticism, criticism and more criticism.

            I have never seen a socialist ‘independent’ (as the world media calls them) intellectual/journalist from Cuba. People from the OC and SPD just don’t fill the label and situation from the USINT trained ‘experts’.

            It’s actually good that the Cuban government keeps some kind of control in order not to bend the economy into its knees before foreign corporations. What you propose is exactly the ‘sell-out’ solution.

            About Myanmar, you spoke a KEY word: sanctions. Are you really as naive as to think ‘democracy’ had ANYTHING to do with it? Are sanctions on Iran (and in the past, Iraq) based on what interests? Please don’t be naive. If so, the US would enforce sanctions upon Saudi Arabia and China for goodness’ sake. The US doesn’t care about how a country is ruled. It cares how much its corporations can make a profit out of it. Everything else is just Imperial ideology.

        • Luis

          Oh yes, the military junta of Myanmar is (and not was stop believing the New York Times or the Washington Post claims that the military is just letting power whither away because Hillary Clinton shook hands Thein Sein. BTW it’s only because of the influence of the US economy on Myanmar that it has been considered part of the ‘good guys’ now, see how the definition of what is democratic or not is for the US) ‘not as bad’ as Cuba for you. Pretty please.

          • Griffin

            Ah dear Luis, defending to the bitter end the Castro’s right to maintain Cuba as a politically repressive, economic basket. Why must the Cuban people must be condemned for all eternity to burn in the hell of your hatred of the USA?

            The Cuban people only want what people everywhere want: to be free.

          • Luis

            ‘condemned’? ‘eternity’? ‘hell’? Are you a preacher now?

            Listen.

            I’m tired of your simple-minded ‘good vs evil’ blah-blah-blah. Rest assured, my hatred for the US’ international policy throughout centuries has a PLETHORA of reasons, but that’s not the case here. I just pointed out one aspect of its ugly face here not to defend “the Castro’s right to maintain Cuba as a politically repressive, economic basket.” or whatever cold-war piece of crap you have to describe the island, but as an counter-argument to Moses: why were the sanctions put in the first place? Was it because the US are the God’s descendent Messiah of the New World Order or just plain old Realpolitik?

            Because time and time again, if things aren’t favorable for the US military-industrial complex in your country, you bet the Leviathan will either trigger the CIA to incite/support a coup, the Pentagon to invade you or Washington to prejudice and strangle your economy.

  • Griffin

    “…for the first time in our history with a single party and its conferences, Raul Castro has determined that economic issues are the country’s central task…”

    That pretty much tells you why the Cuban economy is a basket case: the author just admitted that for 54 years the rulers never considered the economy a priority.

    “Cubans will finally be able to see whether they made the right decision in voting for and endorsing the socialist system, which up until today they have.”

    The Cuban people never had an opportunity to vote for anything else.

    • Luis

      Learn how to read and interpret what you’re reading first. Vincent basically said in that paragraph is that economy issues are being the central point of discussion within the Party conferences. See politics is much more than economy, and economy is much more than accounting records and books.

      • Griffin

        No, my understanding of the paragraph is correct. It’s you who misunderstands it. For the first time in 54 years, Raul has declared the fixing the economy the central task of the government. Furthermore:

        “It seems that he’s reaffirming his intention to end improvised approaches by appealing to collective and institutional decisions, which were so often proclaimed by his predecessor but so poorly carried out.”

        What he is saying there that the way of dealing with the economy in the past, with Fidel issuing vague proclamations and leaving it to the party and bureaucracy to carry out the often confused policies, will no longer be acceptable.

        • Luis

          Now that I pointed out what he really meant you interpret it correctly.

          Good try.

          • Griffin

            That’s what I said the first time, but I’m glad you finally got it.