Looking at Cuba’s Social Spending Cutbacks
October 9, 2014
with our own spyglass
HAVANA TIMES — Cuban economist Jose Luis Rodriguez has brought a
shocking fact to light. In an article by the former Minister of the
Economy, originally published by Cubacontemporanea and re-printed by
Cubadebate, Rodriguez lays bare several statistical reports on Cuba´s
current economic panorama.
One of the most noteworthy figures is the decrease in social assistance
spending by 60% and a nearly 67% reduction of the total number of
families subsidized through such mechanisms.
I cannot help but bring to mind a song by the Cuban band Buena Fe,
Catalejo (“Spyglass”). This piece alludes to the Cuban press’
deeply-rooted habit of criticizing what takes place in distant countries
and concealing all local developments that are cause for concern.
Open any issue of Granma daily or its younger siblings at random, and
you will most likely come across the most bitter criticisms of the US,
Spanish, Greek, Cypriote and many other governments stemming from social
cutbacks in those countries.
Coverage on the situation of the poor in those countries, and of the way
they have been abandoned by states and societies, is extensive and
crowned by bold headlines. Here, on the other hand, we get a mere slice
of news, a hidden phrase somewhere, an article published by a medium
that has a far more limited scope than Granma.
We must recall that, at the beginning of the 1990s, in view of the
economic difficulties looming on the horizon, government authorities
repeated ad nauseam that no Cuban family would be left to their own
resources. This was perceived as a demonstration of the superiority of a
socialist and altruistic society over capitalist and egotistical ones.
Evidently, this policy changed. Today’s public rhetoric reaches
never-before-seen levels of incoherence. It seems that, what with the
storm clouds gathering above, there’s very little else that can be done.
Those affected by these social cutbacks are, obviously, the most
vulnerable sectors of Cuban society. They are the ones most severely
struck by poverty, by the reduction in rationed and subsidized food
quotas – the notorious ration booklet – and by the generalized rise in
prices of all goods and services markets. Our Parliament unfolds
fabulous plans, points to future projects, speaks of the country’s need
to grow, but says very little about these people. The slogan of
“prosperous and sustainable” socialism doesn’t quite fit them.
It is often said that subsidizing products is not very productive, for
both the needy and the well-off have access to such products. These
subsidies, in our country, are in place chiefly for rationed food
products and public transportation. An idea that has also gained
popularity here is to replace this type of subsidy for one aimed
exclusively at those who need it. Judging from what Rodriguez has
revealed, they have opted for neither option.
Because of how things are done in this country, the figures above
conceal a rather frightful number of very sad stories. Regional
government officials receive a plan, on the basis of which they must
reduce their budgets by a given percentage, and they have to cut corners
wherever they can, because they simply get less money, period.
Social assistance subsidies are assigned to people who are unable to
work because of severe health complications, physical or mental, or to
people who are in better shape but are devoted solely to meet the
overwhelming needs of a relative in such a condition. On no few
occasions, journalist Jose Alejandro Rodriguez – not to be confused with
the first Rodriguez – has published articles in Juventud Rebelde
revealing cases in which pensions for such individuals have been suspended.
If only they had tried to consult how different communities feel about
how to distribute what little remains of government resources. But
insensitive bureaucratic mechanisms are incapable of respecting such
democratic mandates. God forbid that some daring soul demand that what a
minister spends on a hotel, a sports institution on an event that isn´t
very popular or whatever is being spent on golf courses, be redistributed.
In short, Cuba’s official press will continue to use its spyglass to see
what problems the moon, Mars and other far-away places have. Only
citizens can turn that spyglass around in order to cast a closer look at
our own shameful problems, and do something about them.
Source: Looking at Cuba’s Social Spending Cutbacks – Havana Times.org –