Tag Archives: Economic Self-Correction

Encuesta de Opinión Pública Cubana 29 Febrero– 14 Marzo, 2012

The International Republican Institute has produced its seventh survey of public opinion on the economic reforms, on future reforms and utilization of electronic media. A variety of interesting results emerge but there are no major shifts of opinion since the previous few surveys which are reviewed comparatively in the presentation.

The full presentation is available here: Enquesta IR Feb-Mar 2012

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Cubans Test Official Limits on Criticism

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
PINAR DEL RIO, Cuba (AP) — Pedro Pablo Oliva was the kind of model citizen the Cuban government wants to show the world.

Oliva proclaimed his loyalty to Fidel Castro’s revolution, his support for its goal of social equality and his gratitude for cultural largesse that nurtured his
development into an internationally celebrated painter and sculptor. He even
did a turn as a delegate in the regional assembly of the western province of
P nar del Rio. But when Oliva criticized harassment of dissidents and suggested there might be room for a party other than the Communists, he was abruptly expelled from the assembly, accused of counterrevolutionary behavior. He found himself with no choice but to shutter his home-based community workshop after the government withdrew its support.

President Raul Castro has called on Cubans to openly air their opinions as his government tries to revive the struggling economy with economic reforms. But officials have sent mixed signals about where it draws the invisible frontier between loyal criticism and what they consider to be dangerous attacks on the system.

A prominent socialist intellectual who made a sharp attack on corruption at high levels found himself booted out of the Communist Party for months. But in another case, officials just seemed to shrug when two state economists
criticized the country’s economic reforms as insufficient.

And while Oliva was punished for denouncing attacks on dissidents, when famous singers Pablo Milanes and Silvio Rodriguez did the same, their comments prompted debate in official media but no reprisals.

“It’s a very difficult question to know where the line is, because the line depends on the moment,” said Arturo Lopez Levy, a Cuban-born economist who lectures at the University of Denver.

Read the Rest of the Article: Cubans Test Official Limits on Criticism

Pablo Milanes: Testing the Limits?

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POLITICAL ECONOMY OF CHANGE IN CUBA

A three-day international symposium held under the auspices of the Bildner Center at City University of New York. and spearheaded by its Director Mauricio Font, was held in March 2011. It was entitled Cuba Futures: Past and Present, and focused on the dynamics of change in contemporary Cuba—the politics, culture, economy.

A selection of the papers on the Cuban economy have been published on the web by the Bildner Centre.  The are all hyperlinked here: Political Economy of Change in Cuba, Bildner Center, CUNY New York. A Table of Contents is presented below. Of special interest are the essays by the analysts from the Centro de Estudios sobre la Economia Cubana, Armando Nova, Camila Piñeiro, Pavel Vidal Alejandro and Omar Everleny Pérez .

Table of Contents

Preface                                                                                                                                   xi

1 La actualización del modelo económico cubano, Omar Everleny Pérez Villanueva

2 Forecasting Cuba’s Economy: 2, 5, and 20 Years, Emily Morris*    10

3 Las restricciones de divisas en la economía cubana, 2010, Pavel Vidal Alejandro 19

4 New Forms of Enterprise in Cuba’s Changing Economy, Camila Piñeiro Harnecker    43

5 Valoración del impacto de las medidas más recientes en los resultados de la agricultura en Cuba, Armando Nova González     63

6 Las nuevas transformaciones en la agricultura cubana: éxitos y desafíos, Reynaldo Jiménez Guethón           81

7 Cuba y el turismo norteamericano. Analisis de potencialidades y de impactos en la región caribeña, Gerardo González Núñez and Roberto Orro Fernández         9

78 Tourism in Cuba: Barriers to Economic Growth and Development Hilary Becker     117

9 Cuba: A Services-Centered Survival and Development Pattern, Alberto Gabriele        133

10 Theoretical Foundations of a Future Privatization in Cuba: The Property and Ownership Paradigm, Frank-Christian Hansel   155

11 Globalization and the Socialist Multinational: Cuba and ALBA’s Grannacional Projects at the Intersection of Business and Human Rights, Larry Catá Backer         183

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NUEVA EDICIÓN DE LA REVISTA ESPACIO LAICAL

The July-September 2011 edition of La Revista Espacio Laical has just been published.  Its primary focus is on an evaluation of the results of the VI Congress of the Communist party of Cuba.Included also is an interview with Phil Peters, author of the Blog The Cuban Triangle and Carlos Saladrigas.Unfortunately it is available only in Spanish.

Here is a full Table of Contents together with Abstracts of some of the Economics Essays with hyper-links.

Table of Contents:

Índice General
Secciones y artículos:

EDITORIAL : El reto de ser audaces  – Del Magisterio.

RELIGIÓN
- Contemplarán al que traspasaron.  Por Sandro Magister

- La contemplación de la belleza.  Por Joseph Ratzinger

PÁGINAS RESCATADASA cargo de Jorge Domingo Cuadriello
- El patriotismo cubano. Por Eliseo Giberga

EL DOSSIER: Post VI Congreso PCC
- El VI Congreso del Partido y los Lineamientos: ¿un punto de vi raje para Cuba?  Por Archibald Ritter
- El VI Congreso: una evaluación preliminar.  Por Armando Chaguaceda.
- Cuba: ¿qué cambia tras el VI Congreso del Partido Comunista?  Por Carmelo Mesa-Lago.
- Cambios en marcha y consensos por lograr.  Por José Ramón Vidal
- Tratando de reinventar el socialismo. (Entrevista a Ricardo Alarcón). Por Manuel Alberto Ramy
- Reformas económic as y desarrollo en el Este de Asia: ¿una experiencia para Cuba? Por Arturo López-Levy

INTERNACIONALES

- La apuesta egipcia. Entrevista a Antonios Naguip. Por Gianni Valente
- Mi vida para la libertad de Chile. Entrevista a Sergio Bitar. Por Roberto Veiga González

BÚSQUEDA:

- Cuba y su diáspora: el desafío de facilitar un reencuentro.  Por Carlos Saladrigas

- Poder  e ineptitud en el exilio de Miami. Por Alejandro Armengol

CUBA
- Vivir como vecinos. Entrevista a Philip Peters. Por Roberto Veiga González

- Aportando para el diálogo y el consenso.  Entrevista a Roberto Veiga González.  Por Armando Chaguaceda

TEMA POLÉMICO

- Saladrigas, Arboleya y el debate sobre el futuro de Cuba.  Por Lenier González Mederos

CULTURA

- Re-señas de libros. Por Jorge Domingo Cuadriello

- Elogio y digresión.  Por David Mateo

- Aspera ad Astra o el itinerario espiritual de un líder político. Por Habey Hechavarría Prado

- José María Chacón y Calvo. Por Malena Balboa Pereira

- Cambiar o no cambiar: ¿es ese el dilema? Por Francisco Almagro Domínguez

- Harold Bloom y yo. Por Roberto González Echeverría

ESPIRITUALIDAD

- En busca de una transformación relevante. Por Raúl Fornet-Betancourt

DE LAS ENTRAÑAS DE LA ISLA

- Cuba en su diversidad cultural. Por Jesús Guanche

EN DIÁLOGO

- El lugar de la ciudadanía. Participación política  y República en Cuba.  Por Julio César Guanche

LA POLÉMICA

- Las propuestas de Carlos Saladrigas para Cuba. Por Jesús Arboleya Cervera

- Comentarios sobre la entrevista a Saladrigas y las opiniones de Arboleya. Por Ramón de la Cruz Ochoa

- Saladrigas y el debate con Ramón de la Cruz. Por Jesús Arboleya Cervera

- Soberanía nacional, emigrados e inversionistas Por Arturo López-Levy

Abstracts

El VI Congreso del Partido y los Lineamientos: ¿un punto de viraje para Cuba? Por Archibald Ritter

El VI Congreso del Partido Comunista de Cuba (PCC) probablemente será de gran importancia para el futuro de Cuba. La revisión que el Congreso hizo de los Lineamientos de la Política Económica y Social del Partido y la Revolución significa que ahora es políticamente correcto apoyar, promover e implementar esta ambiciosa agenda de reformas. Por deducción, es también políticamente correcto llegar a la conclusión de que medio siglo de experimentación económica estuvo en su mayor parte equivocada, y fue contraproducente e insostenible. A pesar de los intentos de crear una impresión de continuidad histórica con la referencia a una “actualización” del modelo económico, los viejos enfoques de gestión económica han quedado profundamente desacreditados. El Congreso ha certificado el clima creado por los cambios de opinión acerca de cómo puede funcionar mejor la economía cubana. Ahora parece que es altamente improbable un regreso a los viejos modos de operar.
(leer más…)


El VI Congreso: una evaluación preliminar. Por Armando Chaguaceda
Pocos eventos han generado tantas esperanzas, frustraciones y debates como el pasado VI Congreso del Partido Comunista de Cuba. La postergación del mismo por 14 años y el trasfondo político del país (continuación de la crisis estructural del modelo socialista de Estado, inicio de reformas económicas e institucionales, relevo de liderazgo) fueron caldo de cultivo para las más variadas especulaciones. Por ello, al cierre inmediato de sus cortinas, diferentes analistas compartieron sus plurales evaluaciones del foro, tributando al necesario balance de sus resultados en cuyo seno se inserta el presente texto. (leer más…)


Cuba: ¿qué cambia tras el VI Congreso del Partido Comunista? Por Carmelo Mesa-Lago
En abril de 2011 se realizó el VI Congreso del Partido Comunista de Cuba (pcc), después de 14 años sin celebrar ese tipo de reuniones. El Congreso estuvo marcado por las ambiciosas reformas que Raúl Castro se propuso como meta tras reemplazar a su hermano Fidel Castro en 2006. No obstante, las contradicciones, las indecisiones, las inercias y las resistencias del aparato burocrático siembran dudas acerca de la eficacia de los cambios aprobados por el Congreso para sacar al país de la profunda crisis económica que enfrenta y recuperar unas fuerzas agotadas. (leer más…)


- Cambios en marcha y consensos por lograr. Por José Ramón Vidal
Las sesiones del VI Congreso del Partido Comunista de Cuba, celebradas en abril último, cerraron una etapa de formulación y consulta de propuestas dirigidas a producir transformaciones en el modelo económico y social, que como es lógico suponer tienen y tendrán en lo adelante inevitables repercusiones en la esfera política. (leer más…)


- Tratando de reinventar el socialismo. (Entrevista a Ricardo Alarcón). Por Manuel Alberto Ramy
Hace apenas 48 horas concluyó el VI Congreso del Partido Comunista de Cuba, un congreso que, según lo que he leído y escuchado, prefigura un país cualitativamente distinto y una sociedad diferente. El presidente de la Asamblea Nacional y miembro del Buró Político del Partido Comunista, Ricardo Alarcón, me ha concedido esta entrevista. Sé que dispone de poco tiempo así que me gustaría hacerle tres preguntas muy concretas. La primera está referida al ámbito del Poder Popular.(leer más…)


- Reformas económicas y desarrollo en el Este de Asia: ¿una experiencia para Cuba? Por Arturo López-Levy
Al discutir los cambios planteados en los Lineamientos económicos y sociales del VI Congreso del Partido Comunista de Cuba, muchos observadores han evocado las reformas en el Este de Asia, particularmente los procesos ocurridos en China y Vietnam. El contexto cultural, económico y social cubano es diferente al de estas naciones; sin embargo, conviene plantearse si hay lecciones de aquellas experiencias que Cuba pueden adaptar. (leer más…)


 

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Cuban Public Opinion Survey, 2011, International Republican Institute

The International Republican Institute has just published the results of a public opinion survey taken in Cuba, the fifth such survey since 2007. A series of questions were asked concerning general perspectives on Cuba, attitudes towards political and economic change, and access to information technology. Some of the same questions have been asked since 2007 providing some interesting comparisons over time.

The complete survey is located here: Cuban Public Opinion Survey, 2011, Int’n'l Republican Institute

The survey methodology was as follows

  • Dates of Interviewing: The fieldwork was conducted Jan, 28 – Feb. 10, 2011.
  • Data Collection Method: Stratified-intercept methodology based on personal, face-to-face interviews in Cuba.
  • Sample Size: 463 Cuban adults (age 18 and older).
  • Sample: Interviews were conducted in twelve (12) Cuban provinces
  • The sample was stratified by province, then by sub-units within each province. Interviewees were allocated by gender and age quotas. The final selection of each interviewee was random.
  • Respondents: The sample selection for province, gender and age are based on the last available Cuban census data, released in 2002.
  • Maximum Sample Margin of Error: Margin of error of ± five percent for a 95 percent level of confidence.

There are a number of interesting results of the survey. Here are a couple.

1. What do you think is the biggest problem in Cuba?   60.7% said that Low Salaries / High Cost of Living were the most serious, up from 40% in 2009,  while 12.7% said that food scarcity was the most serious. 1% of the respondents stated that the Lack of Freedoms / Political System was the most serious. This suggests that Raul Castro’s priority on the economy is not misplaced.

2.      If you were given the opportunity to vote to change from the current economic system to a market economy system – with economic freedoms, including opportunities for Cubans to own property and run businesses – would you vote in favor of, or against, that change?  90.7 of the respondents were in favor. The prospective pro-market reforms of the Sixth Congress would appear to be in line with public opinion.

3.      Do you believe the current government will succeed in solving Cuba’s biggest problem in the next few years?     77% say no, a higher proportion than in any IRI survey since 2007.

4.      If you were given the opportunity to vote to change from the current political system to a democratic system – with multi-party elections, freedom of speech and freedom of expression – would you vote in favor of, or against, that change? 78.2% were in favor.

5.      Do you regularly use a cellular phone?  25.3% said yes, up from 10% in 2007.

Presumably the Government of Cuba conducts similar studies but with differently worded questions that produce results somewhat more congenial to the status quo.

But the results of the IRI surveys certainly must be of deep concern to the Government and the Party.

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Cuba’s Economic Reform Process under President Raul Castro: Challenges, Strategic Actions and Prospective Performance

The Bildner Center at City University of New York Graduate Center organized a conference entitled “Cuba Futures: Past and Present” from March 31 to April 2. The very rich and interdisciplinary program can be found here: Cuba Futures Conference, Program.

I had the honor of making a presentation in the Opening Plenary Panel.  The Power Point presentation is available at “Cuba’s Economic Reform Process under President Raul Castro.”

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Recuperation and Development of the Bahi ́a de la Habana

By Arch Ritter

The Bahia de la Habana has been a centre for international shipping and trade since the early 1500s. It served as a haven from storms and pirates, a fortification against the British, a provisioning center and a gathering point for the Spanish fleet sailing between Seville and Cadiz and the ports of the New World. It is still a hard-working port, handling much of Cuba’s container and bulk shipping, as well as naval installations, cruise ship facilities and industry. After almost 500 years as a working port, however, it appears to be in the process of transformation to a modified and redeveloped tourist and transport center.

“His Britannic Majesty’s Land Forces Taking Possession of Havannah (sic.), August 14, 1762 and Sloops of War Assisting to Open the Booms” Artist: Philip Orsbridge.    Less than a year after Havana was captured by the British in the Seven Years War it was returned to Spain in exchange for Florida by the Treaty of Paris. By the same treaty, France chose to retain Guadalupe and Martinique in exchange for Quebec which went to the British.

The Oficina del Historiador de La Habana, established in 1938 by Dr. Emilio Roig de Leuchsenring for the restoration of historic Havana has played a vital role in restoring Old Havana under the leadership of Eusebio Leal Spengler in 1967. His work has been exemplary, and the historical quarter certainly deserves its UNESCO designation of “World Heritage Site”, awarded in 1982. The restoration and preservation of historic Havana continues to radiate out from the Cathedral quarter and now includes the Plaza Vieja and various locales alongside the Avenida del Puerto to the Iglesia San Francisco de Paula.

It now appears that the whole port area has been designated as a development zone. The old derelict wharves and warehouses are being dismantled and removed. The Arts and Crafts Market has been transferred from close to the Cathedral to the old Almacenes San José into the interior of the port, which have been restored and renovated.  New hotels such as the Armadores de Santander have opened. The new Russian Orthodox Church is in this areas as well

Bahia de La Habana

Removing Derelict Wharves, February 2011, Photos by Arch Ritter

Furthermore, the container port and much of the bulk shipment port will be moved to a new facility in the excellent harbor at Mariel, 50 kilometers west of Havana, which will also generate some regional development impulses in that region. The old Havana petroleum refinery, formerly owned by Esso and Shell, will shut down when to the new refinery in Cienfuegos opens. And the electrical generation plant at the edge of the port, a heavy air polluter for the capital, will relocate to Matanzas. In time, the serious pollution of the port will be reduced, and one hopes cleaned up definitively. [For a glance at current pollution in the harbor, check this web site: Pollution from the Oil Refinery]. This will be an expensive process taking many years. It is also likely that there are significant toxic residues in much of the land used for industrial purposes for past decades. Cleaning this up also will be costly and time-consuming.

At this time, there seems to be no master-plan for the development of the harbor region available to the public. However, there was some talk in February 2011 of such a plan becoming available in May of 2011.

In time, it is expected that new hotels will ring part of the harbor. With normalization of relations with the United States, the port of Havana also will become a key destination for virtually all of the cruise ships entering the Caribbean region. Quick access to Casablanca and the fortifications on the east side of the harbor will likely be provided with transit by improved cross-harbor ferryboat. One could imagine as well circum-harbor excursion ferry boats plying a vigorous trade. With normalization of travel between the United States and Cuba, high-speed hydrofoil passenger transportation and normal traditional ferry boat service from Key West and Miami to Havana will likely be established, providing further stimulus to the port area. A good deal more of the area around the port thus will become an attractive tourist, commercial and perhaps residential zone. It may also be possible that office complexes are eventually developed in the area as well, shifting part of the commercial center of gravity of Havana from the far west back to the harbor zone.

If the redevelopment of the harbor area proceeds with the same deliberativeness as the restoration of Old Havana, we can anticipate a fine citizen- and tourist-friendly extension of the Old Havana zone southwards into the Baha de La Habana and across the harbor to Casablanca, Regla and the Fortaleza San Carlos de la Cabana area.

[Note: The basic idea for this note came from Omar Everley Perez, Centro de Estudios sobre la Economa Cubana on March 8, 2011]

New Artisanal Center at the restored  Almacenes San José, Avenida del Puerto, Photo by Arch Ritter, February 2011

Russian Orthodox Church, Avenida del Puerto, Photo by Arch Ritter, March 2008

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An Overview Evaluation of Economic Policy in Cuba circa 2010

By Arch Ritter

The essay attached and summarized briefly here was presented at a conference at CIAPA, in San Jose, Costa Rica, February 3 and 4, 2009 organized by Paolo Spadonu of Tulane University.

The full essay is entitled An Overview Evaluation of Economic Policy in Cuba, circa 2010, June 30, 2010 and can be seen “HERE”. The Introduction and Conclusion are presented below.

Hopefully, this evaluation will change considerably for the better after the Sixth Congress of the Communist party of Cuba in April.

I. Introduction

The economic development of Cuba has been characterized by high levels of investment in people with successful results, but with weak performance in terms of the production of goods and services generally. Cuba’s achievements regarding human development are well known and are epitomized by the United Nations Development Program’s “Human Development Index” (HDI). On the one hand, this index ranks Cuba at #1 in the world for the Education component (somewhat surprisingly) and #31for the Life Expectancy component. On the other hand, Cuba’s world ranking is for GDP per capita in purchasing power parity terms is #94 with an overall world HDI ranking of #51(UNDP, HDR, 2009, 271.) These rankings underline the inconsistency between the Cuba’s high level of human development on the one hand and its economic underperformance on the other. The strong economic performance of the 2004 to 2008 period appeared to constitute a rapid recovery in terms of Cuban GDP statistics. However, this recovery, while perhaps not illusory, was fragile and unsustainable, based on factors such as support from Venezuela and high nickel export prices, and indeed it has been reversed in 2009-2010.

Given the quality of Cuba’s human resources, the economic performance for the last 15 years should have been excellent. The central argument of this essay is that Cuba’s weak economic performance has been the result of counter-productive public policy. The objective of this essay is to analyze and evaluate a number of central policy areas that shape Cuba’s economic performance, including monetary and exchange rate policy, policy towards micro-enterprise; agricultural policy, labor policy, foreign investment policy, policies towards infrastructure renewal, and the policy approach to self-correction and self-renewal.

In order to present a brief overview of the evaluations, an academic style of grading is employed, with an “A+” being excellent through to an “F” representing “failure”.

This evaluation schema is of course subjective, impressionistic and suggestive rather than rigorous. It is based on brief analyses of the various policy areas. However, the schema is similar to the scoring systems widely used in academia, and is used here with no more apology than is normally the case in the academic world.

Before proceeding with the policy analysis and evaluation, a brief overview of economic performance in the decade of the 2000s is presented to provide the context for the examinations of economic policy.

II. General Economic Performance

III.  Evaluation of Some Central Policy Areas

IV.   Summary and Conclusion:

A summary of the evaluations of the various assessment areas yields an overall evaluation of   “D +”. This is not a strong assessment of Cuban economic policies.

1. Monetary & Exchange Rate Policy                  C-

2. Micro-Enterprise Policy                                    F

3. Policy towards Agriculture                              C-

4. Labor Policy                                                        D+

5. Foreign Investment Policy D+

6. Infrastructure Renewal                                   D

7. Capacity for Self Correction                            D

Overall Grade: D +

The result of such weak policies in these areas is weak economic performance. Badly conceived economic policies nullify the potential efforts of the Cuban citizenry. The major investments in human capital, while fine in their own right, are not yielding strong economic performance. Indeed, misguided policies are undermining, sabotaging and wasting the economic energies and initiatives of Cuba’s citizens.

Major policy reforms amounting to a strategic reorientation of Cuban economic management are likely necessary to achieve a sustained economic recovery and future economic trajectory. So far, writing in June 2010, the Government of Raul Castro has made some modest moves, principally in agriculture, as mentioned earlier. Other policy areas such as those relating to micro-enterprise are reported to be under discussion at high levels in the government. On the other hand, the replacement of the reputed pragmatists Carlos Lage, (Secretary of the Council of Ministers) and Jose Luis Rodriguez, (Vice President of the Council of Ministers and Minister of Economy and Planning) and the replacement of Lage by Major General José Amado Ricardo Guerra of the Armed Forces seems to suggest that the Raul Castro Government may be moving towards a less reformist approach to economic management ( Granma International, 2009.)

The types of policy reforms that would be necessary to strengthen the policy areas discussed above would include the following:

  1. Monetary & Exchange Rate Policy: movement towards realistic and unified monetary and exchange rate systems;
  2. Micro-Enterprise Policy: establishment of an enabling and supportive policy environment rather than a punitive policy of containment;
  3. Policy towards Agriculture: further support for small-scale farmers plus a reinvigoration of the abandoned sugar fields with cane for ethanol, among other policies;
  4. Labor Policy: implement the International Labour Organization approach to fundamental labor rights;
  5. Foreign Investment Policy: establish a clearer and more unequivocal rules-based policy framework;
  6. Infrastructure Renewal: strengthening resource flows towards maintenance, especially for housing, water, and sanitation, and facilitating self-managed and do-it-yourself maintenance on the housing stock by liberalizing the trades and making repair supplies available at reasonable cost;
  7. Capacity for Self Correction: permit an authentic implementation of freedom of expression and freedom of association thereby permitting economic analysis and criticism through a free press and media and the formation of alternate “teams” of potential economic managers – some within political parties.

In sum, effective economic management requires new ideas, transparency and criticism, and, indeed, a major policy reform process in order to reverse the current wastage of human energies, talents and resources. Policy reorientations in the directions noted above are unlikely to be forthcoming from the Government of Raul Castro, which appears to be deeply conservative as well as “gerontocratic”. Cuba will likely have to wait for a “New Team” or more likely a “generational change” in its overall economic management before such major reforms can be implemented.


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Freedom of Expression, Economic Self-Correction and Self-Renewal

An important requirement for the sustained effectiveness of an economic system and society is the ability to analyze and criticize – freely, openly and continuously – its functioning.  Open analysis and criticism in a context of free generation and diffusion of information provide a necessary spur for self-correction, exposing illegalities, flawed policies and errors.  Free analysis and criticism are vital in order to bring illicit actions to light, to correct errors on the part of all institutions and enterprises as well as policy makers and to help generate improved policy design and implementation. This in turn requires freedom of expression and freedom of association, embedded in an independent press, publications systems and media, independent universities and research institutes, and freely-functioning opposition political parties.

The absence of free economic criticisms means that major policy errors or indeed fiascos are not “nipped in the bud” and terminated quickly but steam ahead to disaster. Some major examples of this in Cuba have been

  • The 1961-1963 instant industrialization strategy, aborted in 1963
  • The 10 Million Ton Sugar Harvest effort, from 1964 to 1970;
  • The attempt to use the “New Man” ideology as a labour mobilization device, 1966-1970
  • The shut-down of half of Cuba’s sugar agro-industrial complex (2002)
  • The billion dollar mini-generator component of the “Revolucin Energtica (2006)

Pluralistic democratic countries have free presses and open debate on the issues of the day.  Opposition political parties, academics, interest groups and NGOs, and journalists continuously analyze and critique public policy issues and proposals and the functioning of private and public enterprises and institutions.  Indeed, there is major competition among economic and business journalists as well as academics to be the most perspicacious analysts and critics of public policy.

Unfortunately much of this has been lacking in Cuba.  The media largely performs a cheerleader role, unless issues have been opened up for discussion by the President and the Party.  For example, there was virtually no public discussion or debate concerning the shut-down of half of the sugar sector in 2002, the attacks on self-employment, the dysfunctional parts of the “Revolución Energética” or of the imprisoning of the critics  – or so-called “dissidents” –in  2003.This means that public policies get announced and implemented full-blown without critical input into their formulation, and without subsequent criticism and early correction.

Are the restrictions on freedom of expression becoming more or less severe in recent years? Some indications suggest that there is some relaxation of such restrictions, notably:

  • On June 16 to 20, the Catholic church was able to organize the Semana Social Católica including a Panel on “Economy and Society” with Pavel Vidal Alejandro, Omar Everleny Perez, Carmelo Mesa-Lago y Cristina Calvo.
  • The presentation of information on the economy has improved over the last 10 years. The web site of the Oficina Nacional de Estadisticas is now surprisingly good and the Anuario Estadistico Economico is quite comprehensive and appears in a timely way. (However, the methodologies for the measurement of some fundamental economic data such as labor force, employment and unemployment, consumer price index, and national accounts are opaque and ambiguous so that the analyses based on them are not as strong as they could be.)

But on the other hand, there are also some indications of a hardening of the restrictions on freedom of expression.

  • The containment and harassment of the bloggers continues. They have been denied access to the web. They have been harassed and intimidated – unsuccessfully – by actions of state security. They have been vilified as “mercenaries” in the service of foreign powers. They have been denied the right to travel abroad. They are often denied the right to participate in relevant domestic events such as a conference on civil society and the new media! Their web sites and therefore their commentaries are available within Cuba only with difficulty. But they have not been shut down as of mid-2010, though this could change.
  • The expulsion of Esteban Morales, Professor of Economics and Political Science, University of Havana, from the Communist Party also represents a hardening of restrictions on freedom of expression. Morales comments on the character of racism in Cuba, Challenges of the racial problem in Cuba seemed reasonably innocuous. His April 22 essay entitled “Corruption: The True Counter Revolution” was more hard hitting. But being expelled from the Party looks to me like a reward, not a punishment. Of course, this is not correct, because expulsion from the Party usually means exclusion from foreign travel which is vital for academics as a means of buttressing their inadequate Moneda Nacional incomes.

  • Certain areas of the economy appear to continue to be off limits to analysis and scrutiny, notably the bio-technological industry and the conglomerate enterprises that straddle the peso and the convertible peso economies.
  • The political decision-making process on economic and other matters within the highest levels of the Government continues to be a “black box,” the workings of which we can only speculate about.  Cuban Universities need some real Departments of Political Science!

The near-absence of checks and balances on the policy-making machinery of the state also contributes to obscuring over-riding real priorities and to prolonging and amplifying error.  The National Assembly, dominated by the Communist Party, meets for very short periods of time – four to six days a year – and has a large work load, so that it is unable to serve as a mechanism for undertaking serious analysis and debate of economic or other matters. The cost for Cuba of this situation over the years has been enormous.  It is unfortunate that Cuba lacks the concept and reality of a “Loyal Opposition” within the electoral system and in civil society.  These are vital for economic efficiency, not to mention, of course, for authentic participatory democracy.

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