Tag Archives: Econmic Institutions

ALTERNATIVE INSTITUTIONAL FUTURES FOR CUBA’S MIXED ECONOMY

Archibald Ritter                                                                                          

February 1, 2016

Since 2010, Cuba has been implementing a redesigned institutional structure of its economy. At this time it is unclear what Cuba’s future mixed economy will look like. However, we can be sure that it will continue to evolve in the near, medium and longer term. A variety of institutional structures are possible in the future and there are a number of types of private sector that Cuba could adopt. Indeed it seems as though Cuba were moving towards a number of possibilities simultaneously.

The objective of this note is to examine a number of key institutional alternatives and weigh the relative advantages and disadvantages for each arrangement.  All alternatives include some mixture of domestic or indigenous private enterprises, cooperative and “not-for-profit” activities. foreign enterprise on a joint venture or stand-alone basis, some state enterprises (in natural monopolies for example) and a public sector.  However, the emphasis on each of these components will vary depending on the policy choices of future Cuban governments.

The possible institutional structures to be examined here include:

1. Institutional status-quo as of 2016;

2. A mixed economy with intensified “cooperativization”;

3. A mixed economy, with private foreign and domestic oligopolies replacing the state oligopolies;

4. A mixed economy with an emphasis on indigenous small and medium enterprise.

 Option 1. Institutional Status-Quo as of 2016

The institutional “status quo” is defined by the volumes of employment in the registered and unregistered segments of the small enterprise sector, the small farmer sector, the cooperative areas, the public sector, and the joint venture sector, plus independent arts and crafts and religious personnel.  The employment numbers are mainly from the Anuario Estadístico de Cuba together with a number of guesstimates, some inspired by Richard Feinberg (2013). The guesstimate for unregistered employment in the small enterprise sector may seem exaggerated. However, a large proportion of the “cuentapropistas” utilize unregistered workers and a proportion of the underground economy does not seem to have surfaced into formally registered activities.  These employment estimates by institutional area are presented in Table 1 and illustrated in Chart 1, which also serve as a “base case” for sketching the other institutional alternatives.

Table 1 z zz

The current institutional status quo has a number of advantages but also some disadvantages. On the plus side, adhering to the status quo would avoid all the uncertainties and risks of a transition.  It would maintain the possibility of “macro-flexibility,” that is the ability for the central government to reallocate resources by command in a rapid and large scale fashion. However, in view of the numerous “macro errors” made possible by a centralized command economy (the 10 million ton sugar harvest of 1970, the “New Man” endeavor, shutting down half the sugar mills), “macro-flexibility” may be a disadvantage.  There are major advantages for the Communist Party in maintaining the institutional status quo in the economy, namely enabling political control of the citizenry (a disadvantage from other perspectives) and continuing state control over most of the distribution of income (also a disadvantage from other perspectives).  The approach also helps foster good relations with North Korea (I am running out of advantages).

There are also major disadvantages. The centralized planned economy and public enterprise system generates continuing bureaucratization of production; continuing politicization of state-sector economic management and functioning; continuing lack of an effective price mechanism in the state sector and continuing perversity and dysfunctional of the incentive structure. The result of this is damage to efficiency, productivity and innovation.

 OPTION 2. Mixed Economy with Intensified “Cooperativization”

zzzA second alternative might be to promote the authentic “cooperativization” of the economy in a major way.  This would involve permitting cooperatives in all areas, including professional activities; opening up the current approval processes; encouraging grass-roots bottom-up ventures; providing import & export rights; and improving credit and wholesaling systems for coops.

 This approach has a number of advantages. First, it would strengthen the incentive structure and elicit serious work effort and creativity on the part of those in the coops.  This is because worker ownership and management provides powerful motivation to work hard and profit-sharing ensures an alignment of worker and owner interests. This approach would generate a more egalitarian distribution of income than privately-owned enterprises. Cooperatives may possess a greater degree of flexibility than state and even private firms because their income and profits payments to members can reflect market conditions. Perhaps most important, democracy in the work-place through effective and genuine coops is valuable in itself and constitutes an advantage over both state- and privately-owned enterprise.  [Workers’ ownership and control proposed in Cuba’s cooperative legislation is ironic and perhaps impossible since Cuba’s political system is characterized by a one-party monopoly.  On the other hand it may help propel political democratization.]

The “second degree cooperatives” or “cooperative coalition of cooperatives” called for in the cooperative legislation is particularly interesting as it may permit  reaping organizational economies of scale (a la Starbucks, McDonalds, etc. ) for small Cuban coops in these areas.

An emphasis on cooperatives would help to maintain ownership and diffused control and profit-sharing among local citizens, thereby promoting greater equity in income distribution.

But cooperatives also face difficulties and disadvantages.  First, are they really more efficient than state and private enterprises? Generally speaking, cooperatives have passed the “survival test” but have not made huge inroads against private enterprise in other countries over the years.  Perhaps this is because the “transactions costs” of participatory management may be significant.  Personal animosities, ideological or political differences, participatory failures and/or managerial mistakes may occur.  And for larger coops, complex governance structures may impair flexibility.

 Second, Cuba’s actual complex co-op approval process is problematic and creates the possibility of political controls and biases. Certification of professional cooperatives is unclear. Also, the hiring of contractual workers is problematic

  • The “Hire or Fire after 90 days” rule may curtail job creation;
  • The 10% limit on contractual labor also may curtail job creation;
  • Governance may be impaired if uncommitted workers have to join.

Finally, what will be the role of the Communist Party in the cooperatives?  Will it keep out of cooperative management?  Will Party control subvert workers’ democracy and deform incentives structures?

OPTION 3. Wide Open Foreign Investment Approach zzzzA third possibility would be to open up completely to foreign investment. This would involve a rapid sell-off of state oligopolistic enterprises to deep-pocket foreign buyers such as China, the United States (in due course), Europe, Brazil, or elsewhere.  The buyers might be the Walmart’s, Lowes, Subways, or Starbucks of this world, wanting to acquire major access to the Cuban market. This is a strong possibility if existing state oligopolies (e.g., CIMEX and Gaviota) were to be privatized in big chunks. The policy requirements for this approach to occur would be rapid privatization plus indiscriminate direct foreign investment and takeovers by large foreign firms.

 This approach does have some advantages.

  • It would generate large and immediate revenue receipts for the Cuban government;
  • It would lead to large and rapid transfers into Cuba of financial resources; entrepreneurship and managerial talent; physical capital (machinery and equipment and structures); most modern technology embedded in machinery and equipment; and personnel where and when necessary;
  • The results would be rapid productivity gains, higher-productivity work and rapid GDP gains.

However, there would also be disadvantages such as:

  • Profits would flow out ad infinitum;
  • Income concentration: profits to foreign owners (e.g. the Walton family of Arkansas who practically own Walmart) and profits to oligopolistic domestic owners;
  • Oligopolistic economic structures would be damaging in the long run;
  • There would be a strengthened probability of lucrative employment and ownership for the civilian and military “Nomenclatura”;
  • Blockages or inhibitions to the development of Cuban entrepreneurship;
  • “Walmartization” of Cuban culture; dilution of Cuban uniqueness;
  • Further reduction of the potential for diversified manufacturing in Cuba (e.g. due to the  Walmart/China  mass-purchaser/mass-supplier symbiosis);
  • Probably a blockage of export diversification.

 OPTION 4: Pro-Indigenous Private Sector in a Mixed Economy

zzzzzA fourth possibility would be for Cuba to promote its own small-, medium- and larger enterprises in an open mixed economy. This would require

  • An “enabling environment” for micro, small and medium enterprise with a reasonable and fair tax regimen; an end to the discrimination against domestic Cuban enterprise (See Henken and Ritter, 2015, Chapter 7);
  •  The establishment of unified and realistic monetary and exchange rate systems;
  •  Property law and company law.

A liberalization of micro-, small and medium enterprise would also be necessary to release the creativity, energy and intelligence of Cuban citizens.  This would involve open and automatic licensing for professional enterprises;  an opening up for all areas for enterprise – not only the “201”; permission for firms to expand  to 50 + employees in all areas; creation of wholesale markets for inputs; open access to foreign exchange and imported inputs;  full legalization of “intermediaries” ; and permission for advertising.

 This approach has some major advantages:

 Oligopoly power would be more curtailed compared to Option 3;

  • The economy would be more competitively structured with all the benefits this generates;
  • It would encourage a further flourishing and evolution of Cuban entrepreneurship;
  • It would permit the development of a diversified range of manufacturing and service activities and also a greater diversification of exports;
  • It would provide a reduced role for the “Nomenclatura” of military and political personnel and their families that would otherwise gain from the rapid privatization of state enterprises;
  • It would decentralize economic and thence political power and reduce the power for government to exert political influence through economic control;
  • It would generate a more equitable distribution of income among Cuban citizens and among owners than Option 3;
  •  Profits would remain in Cuba;
  •  There would be a stronger maintenance of Cuban culture.

There would be some disadvantages with this approach.

  • There would be no massive and immediate cash infusion to Government from asset sell-offs.   Or is this an advantage?  [more effective use of in-coming revenues]
  •  Perhaps there would be a slower macroeconomic recuperation;
  • There would be slower inflows of technology, finance, managerial know-how – but more domestically controlled.

Conclusion

Most likely, Cuban policy-makers in the government of Raúl Castro, the government of his immediate successor, and future governments of a politically pluralistic character will design policies that ultimately will lead to some hybrid mixture of the above four possibilities.  I of course will have little or no say in the process. However, my personal preference would be for an economy resembling the structure in the accompanying chart, with a large “indigenous” private sector, a significant cooperative sector, of course a large public sector for the provision of public goods, a small sector of government-owned enterprises, and a significant private foreign and joint venture sector. zzzzzzSo my bottom-line recommendations for current and future governments of Cuba would be:

  1. Utilize Cuba’s abundant resource — well-educated, innovative, strongly-motivated entrepreneurship — effectively, by further liberalizing the regulatory and fiscal regime for the indigenous micro-, small and medium enterprise sector, thereby also promoting Cuba’s indigenous economic culture;
  2. Use Cooperatives and “Coops of Coops” where possible;
  3.  Avoid “Walmartization” & homogenization of Cuban economy and culture by utilizing an activist policy towards direct foreign investment.

Bibliography

Feinberg, Richard E., Cuba’s Economic Change in Comparative Perspective, Brookings Institution, 2013

Oficina Nacional de Estadísticas, Anuario Estadístico de Cuba, 2014

Ritter, Archibald and Ted Henken, Entrepreneurial Cuba, The Changing Policy landscape, Boulder Colorado: Lynn Rienner, 2015

 

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Brookings Institution: CUBA’S ECONOMIC CHANGE IN COMPARATIVE PERSPECTIVE

Edited by RICHARD E. FEINBERG AND TED PICCONE

Full Document Here: Brookings, 2014:  Cuba’s Economic Change

                         TABLE OF CONTENTS

 Introduction and Overview    Richard Feinberg

Policies for Economic Growth: Cuba’s New Era,  Juan Triana Cordovi and Ricardo Torres Pérez

Economic Transformations and Institutional Changes in Cuba. Antonio F. Romero Gómez

Institutional Changes of Cuba’s Economic-Social Reforms: State and Market Roles, Progress, Hurdles, Comparisons, Monitoring and Effect. Carmelo Mesa-Lago

Economic Growth and Restructuring through Trade and FDI: Costa Rican Experiences of Interest to Cuba, Alberto Trejos

Monetary Reform in Cuba Leading up to 2016: Between Gradualism and the “Big Bang” Pavel Vidal Alejandro and Omar Everleny Pérez Villanueva

Exchange Rate Unification: The Cuban Case. Augusto de la Torre and Alain Ize

New Picture (2)

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INSTITUTIONAL CHANGES OF CUBA’S ECONOMIC-SOCIAL REFORMS: STATE AND MARKET ROLES, PROGRESS, HURDLES, COMPARISONS, MONITORING AND EFFECTS

31See: http://www.brookings.edu/research/papers/2014/08/cubas-economic-social-reforms-mesalago

The original essay is available here: Mesa-Lago-Economic and Social Reforms in Cuba-Brookings-14

In INSTITUTIONAL CHANGES OF CUBA’S ECONOMIC-SOCIAL REFORMS, Carmelo Mesa-Lago, distinguished service professor emeritus of economics and Latin American studies at the University of Pittsburgh, evaluates the pros and cons of Cuba’s economic reform plans as they relate to institutional change.

Overall, Mesa-Lago concludes that institutional reforms in Cuba are advancing in a positive direction, albeit slowly. The most important of these so far has been the establishment of microcredit, bank accounts and wholesale markets for the non-state sector, and the sale of homes and establishment of inheritance rights for usufructuaries and home owners. However, key structural changes and components are still missing: integral price reform, elimination of monetary duality, a realistic exchange rate and bank system restructuring.

The author argues that if Cuba were to follow an adapted “socialist market” or mixed economy model, as in China and Vietnam –which have a private sector, open markets and foreign investment, combined with an indicative plan and decentralization of decision making — it would achieve much higher sustained economic growth. Furthermore, the state must permit self-employment in skilled, high-value-added jobs for university graduates, authorize medium-sized enterprises and cooperative ownership of businesses, allow true co-op independence, reduce excessive taxes on non-state workers, halt government measures that create uncertainty, and expand microcredit and wholesale markets. Mesa-Lago offers a variety of other policy recommendations that will help advance the process of institutional reform within the context of the ongoing reform process. However, time is of the essence as Raúl Castro has committed to retiring in February 2018, leaving him with only four years to complete the key institutional changes the nation urgently needs.

New Picture (3)

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POTENTIALS AND PITFALLS OF CUBA’S MOVE TOWARD NON-AGRICULTURAL COOPERATIVES

Below is an analysis of  Cuba’s move toward non-agricultural cooperatives, presented at the meetings of the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy in July 2013 and published in the Proceedings of that Conference.

The complete essay can be read here: Cuba’s Move towards Non-Agricultural Cooperatives

  By Archibald R. M. Ritter

In the process of re-analyzing the issues and problems facing the Cuban economy following the July 2006 accession to power by Raúl Castro, it was concluded that much of the state sector of the economy — and the planning process under which it operated — was irredeemably inefficient. Numerous attempts had been made to improve its operation, but all were without significant success. This was typified sharply by the collapse of the sugar agro-industrial sector, by the inability of the non-sugar industrial sector to be revived after its collapse in 1989-1992, by the continuing shortcomings of the consumer economy and by the burgeoning of the underground economy. In response to this continuing predicament, Raúl Castro’s Government produced the “Draft Guidelines for Economic and Social Policy” of October 2010 with a final version in May 2011, which notably called for the establishment of an enabling environment for small enterprise, among other things. The “Guidelines” document also included a section on the promotion of new non-agricultural cooperative enterprises. This institutional form was the object of considerable analysis within the Cuban Government between 2008 and 2012.

On December 11, 2012, a battery of new laws and regulations on cooperatives were published in the Gaceta Oficial No. 53, including two Council of State Decree-Laws, two Ministerial Resolutions, one Council of Ministers Decree, and one Ministerial “Norma Específica de Contabilidad.” This legislation outlined the structuring, functioning, governance and financial organization of the new cooperatives and provided the legal framework within which they were to operate. It permitted and defined a new type of economic institution for Cuba, one that would have been out of the question under the presidency of Fidel Castro, but that holds the potential for revolutionizing the institutional structure of the Cuban economy. The legislation presented the cooperatives as “experimental,” and indicated that after some 200 were initially approved, the institutional form would be reappraised and modified as appropriate. There is therefore some uncertainty regarding the long-term character of the legislative framework governing the structure and functioning of the cooperatives. However, in our judgment, the reform will more likely be more “loosening” rather than restricting – assuming that Raúl and his successors do not return to the de-marketizing and centralizing orientations of the previous “Fidelista” era.

In essence, the new legal regime for non-agricultural cooperatives provides for ownership and management of the enterprise by its employees, with mainly independent management and control –– over the setting of prices, the purchase of inputs, decisions regarding what to produce, labor relations and the remuneration of members.

Reforms of state enterprises were announced on July 7, 2013 by the Minister responsible for the reform process, Marino Murillo (Frank, 2013). State enterprises were to be granted greater control over their profits – retaining 50% thereof for their own uses – as well as over wages and salaries, investment expenditures, and the purchase of imported inputs. It was still unclear as to whether prices were to be controlled by the state planners or by market forces. It is still too early at the time of writing to say whether these changes in the regimen for state firms will amount to a reliance on the forces of supply and demand for their social control. However, they signal a shift towards a more mixed economy, greater decentralization of economic management, and a diminished role for the central planning authority.

This type of worker ownership and management within a market environment could be regarded as a variant of “market socialism.” Cuba is launched on a path towards a hybrid type of mixed economy with a still-significant state sector, an expanding small enterprise sector, a joint venture (foreign and domestic state enterprise), and now an employee-owned and managed sector.

Only Yugoslavia prior to its break-up included a large part of its economy under a unique form of workers’ management, though it still seems to have involved authentic workers management in theory more than in practice (Carson, 1973). Most other countries have cooperative enterprises of various types that survive and thrive. However, while some cooperative enterprises are large and highly successful, no form of cooperative model has taken over a majority share of the economy in any country since Yugoslavia disintegrated in 1990-1992.

If Cuba’s new legislative framework for non-agricultural cooperatives is sustained, and if they actually function as they are intended, their governance and operation will be quite democratic and egalitarian in terms of the decision-making process within the enterprise and the distribution of income among members.  The adoption of this cooperative model, involving workers’ ownership and management and operating under market mechanisms, could turn out to be a major institutional innovation for Cuba. In the current context of the existing economic structures in virtually all of the countries of the world, this might prove to be innovative and perhaps revolutionary, though it is still too early to judge.

 

THE COOPERATIVE ALTERNATIVE

 THE 2012 LAW ON NON-AGRICULTURAL COOPERATIVES

 POTENTIAL OF THE COOPERATIVE COMPONENT FOR THE CUBAN ECONOMY

 DIFFICULTIES AND LIMITATIONS OF CUBA’S COOPERATIVE LAW

 IMPLEMENTATION BEGINS

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Centro-Asturiano-La-Habana-Cuba-485x728Centro Asturiano

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Centro Gallego

SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION

            Cuba’s December 2011 initiative for the establishment of non-agricultural cooperatives may permit the emergence of larger scale non-state enterprises that could operate with greater effectiveness than state enterprises. Moreover, such cooperatives may well have advantages over private sector enterprises particularly regarding the equity of their income distribution arrangements and also workers’ incentives and levels of commitment.

If this initiative is implemented broadly in the Cuban economy, it could constitute a change and perhaps an improvement of historic dimension. With much of the state sector of the economy converted to cooperative institutional forms, Cuba could become a country of “cooperative socialism,” which would be quite different from the highly centralized and state-owned system to which it has aspired for half a century.

However, authentic cooperatives are not easy to establish, to manage or to operate effectively. There are also a number of uncertainties and potential problems which are specific to the Cuban case, judging from the legislation. Perhaps the more serious of these potential difficulties include firstly, the approval process which is unclear and susceptible to control from the center; secondly, the nebulous role of the Communist Party in the functioning of the enterprises; thirdly, the limited possibility of hiring of non-member workers;  is very limited and finally, the uncertainty as to whether or not cooperatives providing professional services of various sorts will be permitted.

It is wise that the government is proceeding cautiously and that it is considering the cooperative enterprises’ first phase as “experimental” and tentative in character. The legislative framework within which these cooperatives operate can then be modified on the basis of the initial experience. This pragmatic approach is pointedly different than the decision-making process under President Fidel Castro, in which substantive policy shifts and institutional changes were determined by the President and implemented rapidly such that the full foolishness of the decisions would become apparent only after it was too late to change course.

If it comes to fruition as it is envisaged in the cooperatives legislation, the role of worker management and of worker control could constitute a significant degree of “economic democracy” for Cuba.  This would be a significant and, indeed, a paradoxical development in view of the near complete lack of authentic democracy in Cuba’s political system. Will democracy in the workplace generate a strong pressure and impetus for the spread of genuine participation in the political sphere?

 [1] I would like to thank Ted Henken and Jorge Pérez-López for valuable substantive as well as editorial contributions in the preparation of this essay.

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BIBLIOGRAPHY

Carson, Richard. Comparative Economic Systems. New York: Macmillan, 1973.

Caruso-Cabrera,  Michelle. 2013. “Cuba shows beginnings of free enterprise—sort of,” CNBC, July 12.

Ciudad de La Habana.2010. Proceso de reducción de plantillas. (Power Point Presentation) August 24.

Cuba Libre Digital.  “La burocracia ‘socialista’ consume a las nuevas cooperativas no agropecuarias.” 10 de enero de 2013.

 Decree 309, Council of Ministers. Gaceta Oficial de la República de Cuba, Número 53. 11 de diciembre de 2012.

Decree-Law 305. “De las cooperativas no agropecuarias.” Gaceta Oficial de la República de Cuba, Número 53. 11 de diciembre de 2012.

Frank, Marc.  2013a.  “Cuba’s non-farm co-ops debut this week amid move toward markets,” Chicago Tribune, June 30.

Granma. September 11 and 14, 2012.

Horvath, Branco. “Yugoslav Economic Policy in the Post-War Period: Problems, Ideas and Institutional Developments,” American Economic Review, June 1971.

International Cooperative Alliance. WebSite: www.ica.coop (accessed January 15, 2013).

Juventud Rebelde. 18 de diciembre de 2012. Debate sobre la nueva ley de cooperativismo : Se buscan socios.http://www.cubainformacion.tv/index.php/economia/47243–cuba-extiende-las-cooperativas-a-a-la-traduccion-la-informatica-y-la-contabilidad. Accessed January 16, 2013.

La Nación. “Primeras cooperativas no agropecuarias en Cuba comienzan en una semana.”  San José, Costa Rica. 23 de junio de 2013.

Mesa-Lago, Carmelo. Market, Socialist and Mixed Economies: Comparative Policy and performance, Chile, Cuba and Costa Rica. Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000.

Ministry of Finance and Prices. Resolución 427/2012, Gaceta Oficial de la República de Cuba, Número 53. 11 de diciembre de 2012.

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Partido Comunista de Cuba. VI Congreso. Lineamientos de la Política Económica y Social del Partido y la Revolución. La Habana, 18 de abril de 2011.

Peters, Phil. Reforming Cuba’s Agriculture: Unfinished Business. Arlington Virginia: Lexington Institute, 2012.

Piñeiro Harnecker, Camila. (Compiladora). Cooperativas y Socialismo: Una Mirada desde Cuba. La Habana: Editorial Caminos, 2011.

Piñeiro Harnecker, Camila. “Las cooperativas en el nuevo modelo económico,” in Pavel Vidal Alejandro and Omar Everleny Perez Villanueva (Compiladores) Miradas a la economía cubana: El proceso de actualización. La Habana: Editorial Caminos, 2012.

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