In Cuba ‘Raulismo’ Follows The Fine Print Of ‘Fidelismo’ / 14ymedio
14ymedio, Havana, 27 October 2016 – In recent weeks several alarming
news reports about the Cuban economy have filled the front pages of
newspapers. The attitude of the government in monopolizing the aid for
the victims of Hurricane Matthew and its cutting off of new licenses for
private restaurants have raised fears that the country is heading down
the path of “counter-reform,” accompanied by an aggressive political
The first signs of this backtracking were felt in the “Guidelines for
Economic and Social Policy of the Party and the Revolution,” updated
during the 7th Communist Party Congress last April. These guidelines not
only refuse to accept “the concentration of property” in non-state forms
of productions, but added that the concentration of wealth would also
not be tolerated.
For those who were waiting for the Party Congress to lead to greater
flexibilities for national entrepreneurs, this strengthening of the most
orthodox line increased their frustration.
“Raul Castro’s government seems more willing to lose the income from
taxes on entrepreneurs than to allow entrepreneurs to exist with
positive results,” laments an economist at the University of Havana who
asked to remain anonymous. “Although the foreign media has exaggerated
the similarities between the reforms undertaken on the island and the
Chinese and Vietnamese style models, in practice, Cuban officialdom
strives every day to do the exact opposite.”
The national press is full of calls to use the maximum “reserves of
productive efficiency” that supposedly exist on the island, but this is
just an empty phrase if they don’t start opening the Cuban economy
instead of closing it.
After officially ascending to power in 2008, Raul Castro initiated a
process of changes in the economy that he called “structural” and
necessary for the country. Among those that had the greatest impact on
daily life was the push for the private sector, which had been corralled
with excessive controls, rules and high taxes during the presidency of
The leasing of state land under the terms of usufruct generated hope for
advances toward greater flexibility in production and trade in
agricultural products. The creation of urban cooperatives also helped to
fuel the illusions of an economic recovery and an improvement that would
be felt on Cuba’s dinner tables and in Cuban pockets.
There were also the relaxations to allow Cubans to buy and sell homes
and cars, to travel outside the country and to be able to have
cellphones, which achieved greater political impacts, lauded in the
headlines of the international press as it highlighted “the Raul reforms.”
Eight years after the beginning of that impulse for renewal, officialdom
is determined to divert attention from the main problems facing the
country. In the streets there is a palpable sense that the country is
returning to the early years of this century, with an imposed economic
The former Minister of the Armed Forces, now president, has not met his
commitment to push transformations “without haste, but without pause,” a
much-repeated phrase that has become a touchstone of his supposed
intentions. In recent years, instead of advancing, the flexibility
measures have stalled and only 21% of the Guidelines have been met,
according to the authorities themselves.
Recently, the private sector in the dining industry has begun to suffer
new pressures. The announcement of a freeze in the issuance of new
licenses to open private restaurants has been read as an unmistakable
sign of a slowing, and even a backtracking, in the reforms.
Instead of concentrating its facilities to create a wholesale market,
the state has chosen to dedicate all its efforts so that entrepreneurs
cannot acquire the products and raw materials needed for their
businesses in the informal market. Monitoring and control absorbs more
resources and energy, in this case, than enabling and empowering.
Something similar has happened with private transportation, which, since
the beginning of the year, has been under intense scrutiny by the
authorities, with the government canceling of licenses in an attempt to
regulate rates already established by supply and demand. Price caps have
affected the population and doubled the time passengers spend in travel.
When logic suggested that the authorities should turn their efforts to
providing carriers gasoline and oil at wholesale prices, they inverted
the logic with inspectors demanding receipts from the drivers of
shared-taxi services to prove they bought their fuel at state outlets.
This, at a time when it is an open secret that private transport is only
profitable if fuel is supplied through the informal market.
The ever louder beating of the drums by the most recalcitrant targets
the accumulation of wealth, but without announcing the definition of
what is acceptable and what is not. A practice of confusion and
permanent anxiety that was very effective for Fidel Castro in keeping
the country on tenterhooks for five decades.
The question many are asking is why doesn’t the government turn its
energy to working with private businesses to make the state sector more
efficient. Why not decentralize this mammoth network that produces more
costs than benefits?
The little progress that has been made in this direction is felt in the
country’s development. According to official estimates, in 2016 economic
growth will be less than 1%, a figure dominated by the state sector that
employs three-quarters of the labor force.
The state model driven by Raul Castro has chosen, in recent months, to
spend huge resources on political mobilizations, but is incapable of
sowing the crops needed to feed the population.
What country does he intend to bequeath to his successor?
Those who applauded his reforms look out over a Cuba today that is
turning to the past, and a government that redoubles its rhetoric
against independent journalists, bloggers and academic critics. A nation
that continues to put the brake on its productive forces and looks
grudgingly on entrepreneurship and prosperity.
Source: In Cuba ‘Raulismo’ Follows The Fine Print Of ‘Fidelismo’ /
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