Cuba and its Pending Matters

by Fernando Ravsberg

Photo: Raquel Perez Diaz

HAVANA TIMES — The year 2017 is drawing to an end with its almost paralyzed “reform process” and the economy hasn’t changed in the way the Communist Party Guidelines proposed, which the government itself had put forward and had been ratified by millions of Cubans at assemblies.

It will be left up to the next government to resolve key issues that stand in the way of progress such as unifying currencies, opening up to small and medium private enterprises (SMEs), lifting restrictions on cooperatives, authorizing wholesale markets and speeding up foreign investment processes.

In spite of everything, Cuba continues to have two currencies and, which is even worse still, different exchange rates between them, which makes it impossible to objectively analyze accounts and it creates troubled waters in which the corrupt can move about easily.

As a result of these exchange rates, some more profitable companies appear to have negative balances and vice-versa. The false parity at a business level between Cuba’s two currencies distorts everything and it is a burden that makes it impossible for the economy to really take off.

The Party, government, congresses, parliament and people assemblies all approved the existence of SMEs and yet not the slightest practical move has been made for their promotion, there isn’t even a State institution where you can go to make a company legal.

The delays within this field are surprising given the importance this project has in the reforms’ master plan. The State needs to free itself of shortfall companies, which would create great unemployment which can be only be absorbed by the private sector.

Raul Castro is leaving it up to the next government to implement real changes in Cuba’s economy.

Not everyone has the skills, the capital or the knowledge to transform them into self-employed workers. “Self-employment” has its limits and the current standstill within this sector proves that there needs to be new forms of organization for the private economy.

This year has been particularly negative in opening the economy to private production and services. Small and medium businesses aren’t being set up, already established cooperatives are being shut down and licenses for popular self-employed jobs that were really booming have been suspended until further notice.

Criticism of the private sector is vicious and it tries to justify these steps backwards in the reforms process. The reality is that a double standard is being used to measure the success of State and private companies, where the corruption of some companies in both are intimately linked.

The sale of stolen products at “paladares” and cafes wouldn’t exist if there first weren’t resources being diverted away from State companies. Corrupt people in both sectors feed each other but only the self-employed are paying for the broken plates.

Within the state and private business tangle, both here in Cuba and abroad, there aren’t any saints but the lack of wholesale markets or authorization to import goods of their own accord push them towards crime. If they weren’t going to be given access to supplies, it would have been better not to have given out any licenses.

Foreign investment is moving forward at a turtle’s pace and apparently not even the foreign investment minister, Rodrigo Malmierca, can speed up this process. He has even publicly criticized the slowness of procedures and redtape that those interested in investing in Cuba suffer.

The minister of foreign investment in Cuba has criticized the slowness of procedures within his sector. Photo: Raquel Perez Diaz

Cuban economists claim that the country needs 2.5 billion USD in investment per year to be able to grow. The national economy doesn’t have this kind of capital, nor the technology or the knowledge needed to be able to do this itself.

Within this context, halting foreign investment because of corruption or incompetence means sabotaging the national economy greatly. The new government will need to establish clear protocols that will regulate procedures and the time of these to demand results from its own negotiators.

The government’s great achievement was to renegotiate the national debt with the Paris Club receiving sizeable benefits for Cuba but repayments are leaving national coffers dry. Using the resources being reinvested as a result of these agreements smartly could be the only way out of this crisis.

The historic leaders are leaving behind great tasks to the next government. However, they are also leaving behind a masterplan that has already been written, debated and approved by the majority of the Cuban people, who hope that it will be put into practice soon and without further delays.

15 thoughts on “Cuba and its Pending Matters

  • The next government Fernando will just be more of the same. Where would Diaz-Canel get new ideas, for he is a product of the communist system and knows nothing else? Like sheep, the lambs bleat like their mothers

    Reply
    • You know Carlisle? I could never rationally bring myself to believe that Cubans – as we say in the US – truly “drank the Kool Aid.” (a morbid, but fitting reference to the 1978 Jonestown massacre in Guyana.)
      Brainwash is a curious and frightening reality, apparently. Can’t say I’m not learning a lot on HT! As some of my detractors have mentioned – albeit for different reasons: I guess I am a bit naive.

      Reply
      • Well Joseph, my knowledge of communism goes back a long way, to Europe during and after the Second World War. My late father was Head of Station for MI6 (The British Secret Intelligence Service) in Vienna, being one of the first two Brits to enter Vienna in May, 1945 following working with the Maquis in France during the war, then in Italy, and had an apartment in Vienna which I visited as a student, he died there in 1997. So I witnessed the quadripartite division of Vienna which was in the Russian zone of Austria, like Berlin was in Germany. I have had a sub-machine gun stuck ion my gut by a Mongolian Russian demanding my passport. So I know of the methods of spies, of double-think of the means of exerting power and control. The Russian zone of Austria became the only territory given up by the Russians, who were out-manoeuvred in negotiations. Austria became free and neutral, but the Russians did not make the same mistake in Germany. My father took part as a ‘diplomat’ in 147 meetings with them and a well known Austrian artist later gave him a lovely painting of the Burgenland writing upon it” To xxxxx xxxxx in exchange for the Burgenland.” it is still in the possession of my family.
        The Burgenland lying east of Vienna was in the Russian zone. I also saw the Iron Curtain, that awful division which stretched across Europe from the Baltic to the Black Sea, with the barbed wire, towers with guards every kilometer and mined. I knew people who risking their lives, managed to escape across the Curtain from Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia. So for me, communism is not an academic theory but reality with its repression of the best aspects of humanity and endeavors to extinguish individuality. That is why I detest it.
        So as you can imagine, I have little empathy for the communist sycophants who write here from the comfort of the capitalist world. Living as I do the majority of my time at home in Cuba, I experience the reality of the Castro regime, the PCC, MININT and the CDR. Unlike many of the sycophants I speak from personal knowledge and experience, not ignorance.
        Finally, Carlisle is a city in Northern England, Carlyle is the correct spelling.

        Reply
        • Very interesting Carlyle. Thanks for sharing.

          Reply
          • I ought to have mentioned the courage of the agents who reported to my father having risked their lives (those captured were shot) to cross the Iron Curtain and spend time in the Russian occupied countries. Brave men, I met several of them.

  • There is a parable in the Bible advising against putting new wine in old wineskins. New ideas in that socialist Castro dictatorship have largely come to naught. If the “new” government operates similar to the Castro-led regime, the people will see the same results.

    Reply
  • What a pathetic and sad opportunity the Cuban people have been deprived of.
    Just for sake of comparison, let’s look at 2 countries during the1950’s.
    South Korea: literally flattened from war.
    Cuba: A thriving infrastructure rivalling New York City.
    …and Today:
    South Korea: an blistering economy with standards of living, innovation, global contributions rivaling any in the world.
    Cuba: an apologist culture and incompetent “governance” refusing to accept responsibilities for its dire standing on all fronts. Progress – or more accurately lack-thereof – that has propelled the country backward 60 years instead of forward.
    You know what? My bad.
    The more telling comparison is Cuba and North Korea!

    Reply
    • Everything the Miami ”Cuba libre” bunch say about the vile Castro’s is correct but it is a shame they refuse to see what worthless self serving, corrupt con artist the Miami Cuban politicos are.

      Reply
      • “Miami Cuban politicos” do not have a monopoly on corruption. But that is wholly and utterly beside the point and off topic. A diversion worthy of Regime defenders.

        Reply
  • Fernando, you have got to be kidding!!
    “…leaving behind a masterplan that has already been WRITTEN, DEBATED and APPROVED by the MAJORITY of the Cuban people…?”
    So how does that Cuban democracy work again? What happens to dissenters? Why do Cuban nationals who “criticize” The Regime have to resort to pen names?
    Honestly…Please tell me what I am missing!

    Reply
  • Another excellent article from Mr Ravsberg.
    And in response another typical selection of ‘good vs evil’ & ‘binary world-view’ comments from the usual gang.
    If ‘Making Irrelevant Good vs Evil Comments’ were an Olympic sport, there would definitely be some serious gold medal prospects here…………
    These comments are quaint in their different ways and great fun as always, but bear little or no relation to Mr R’s excellent analysis.

    Reply
    • If you possessed even the most minimal sense of comprehension, you just might see that my comments have nothing to do with your misleading, myopic and foolish “good vs evil” interpretation. If you would have read FR’s article, you would have clearly understood that it largely speaks to Cuba’s economy as “ushered” by the revolution’s policies and (utter) lack of progress. It is disturbingly, if not laughably pitiful that one needs to spoon-feed you this “relevance.”
      Consider this: Instead of attempting to goad me on with your cowardly, nonproductive muckraking, try hitting me where it really counts with on-point, rational debate. Honestly, I haven’t witnessed you capable and don’t believe you have the intellectual chops to do so. Same goes for your comrades Kennedy, CeErmle, et. al.

      Reply
      • As I have stated previously, I am not going to get drawn into the trading of insults with you or with anyone else.

        Reply
        • That’s the wisest thing I’ve read from you. As Mark Twain once said: “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.”

          Reply
          • Mark Twain:
            Literary Genius.
            One of the true greats.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *