Editorial 52. July Aug.
REFORMS ARE BEING SLOW AND SUPERFICIAL. ECONOMIC CRISIS IN CUBA IS DEEPENING.
This new economic crisis is described by the main authorities in the country. The Minister of Economy and Planning in Cuba, Mr. Marino Murillo has said at the National Assembly on the 8th of July:
“Since December we have been facing financial limitations and restrictions mainly due to the income fall, to exportations and limitations in fuel. This has led us to a tense situation to face economy in the second semester so a number of quick measures have to be taken” (Granma, July 9th 2016, page 6).
And the Minister goes on:
“What are we lacking? Currency because of the income failure; fuel because we haven’t received all the fuel we expected to enter the country… facing those two limitations we propose these three measures: to reduce cash expenses, to stop the implementation of credits and the adjustment in the use of fuel” (idem).
President Raúl Castro has stated in that very session of the National Assembly referring the “deepening” of the economic crisis which comes from the 1990’s after the fall of the USSR and the so-called Socialist Field:
“The first semester the Gross Domestic Product increased one percent, that is, half of the amount it was intended. This result has been due to the deepening of external financial restrictions which have been caused by the failure in exportation income together with the difficulties faced by our main business partners due to the fall of oil prices”. (Granma, July 9th 2016. Page 3).
“In addition, there is a contraction in fuel supplies agreed with Venezuela… this has added additional stress to Cuban economy… I should acknowledge that some ordinary payments to the providers have been delayed… and ratify the firm will by the Government to recover the unresolved expirations” (idem).
The Cuban Head of State reports that some restrictive measures have been decreed, that there will be no collapse of the economy, but there will be “damages even greater than the ones today”.
“Under these adverse circumstances the Council of Ministers adopted a group of measures to face the situation and guarantee the main activities that maintain the strength of economy, and the damage to the population will be diminished. As expected, with the purpose of sow discouragement and uncertainty among the citizenship, speculations and predictions start to appear about inevitable collapse of our economy and the return to the intense phase of the economic crisis… we don’t deny that some damages will appear; they could be even greater than the ones today but we are prepared and we have better conditions than the ones at that time in order revert the situation. Facing these difficulties and threats there is no place for improvisations and much less for defeatism”. (idem)
Here is the description of the worsening of an economic model that has been inefficient for more than five decades, very dependent on the “business partners”, very unproductive, depending on the oil prices, not as an importing country which would get benefits from the low oil prices but as an economy that has depended on the benefits from the oil diplomacies of political allies.
Just a few weeks before the negotiation of Cuban external debt with many countries, Cuba has been exceptionally benefited by the cancellation of many millions and the partial conversions into credits for social investments. Under these circumstances, the Cuban Government announces: “to be late in ordinary payments” and it promises again “to recover the unresolved expirations”.
Crisis or Openness?
Hearing the opinions of Cubans it’s easy to see that in most cases it is not about “speculations and predictions” as the Cuban government has said. It’s about opinions of well-informed citizens who have received a public instruction and above all from those citizens who have the experience of life and don’t respond to induced speculations as if they were puppets.
It’s about the expressions of the consciousness of citizens which deserve respect. It is the manifestation of the rights of citizens to say their opinions, to disagree, to doubt and even suspect about the sustained crisis which the very government calls “damage”, “restrictions”, “deepening” or “tense situation”. It’s a serious mistake of governance not to listen to the voice of the people. It is even more disrespectful to assume that this voice comes from out of the conscience and the experience of the very citizens.
It’s the same old story and the people know. There is much uncertainty and the questions are many:
How is it possible that after the openness to Americans and the Agreement with the European Union we are back to another deepening of the crisis?
How is it possible that 25 years after the experience of what happened in Cuba when the Soviet Union disappeared, the Cuban government, which is the same one of that time, didn’t learn how to get its economy out of the dependence of only one country, now called Venezuela? How could be the State sector damaged without damaging the population in a country where economy and basic services are still in the hands of the State sector?
How much longer will be the updating of an economic model experiment hybrid in the outside and centralized in the inside? A model with 50 years of failures, a model in crisis and of crisis and new failures, inefficiency and reductions, that is to say, not very symbolically, an economic model going from one blackout to another?
An ordinary citizen won’t find appropriate answers to these questions in none of the speeches at the National Assembly which were published. How can uncertainty, bad predictions, defeatism and unstoppable exodus be prevented?
The Miracle, the Change of “Metropolis” or the Solution?
We mustn’t stay in complain or pessimism. No one wants it but all of us must work in order to present solutions and to open spaces for their debate and to implement them.
When the measures from the Council of Ministers began to be implemented in the enterprises, a few weeks ago we heard extreme statements like this: “The only thing we can expect is a miracle, to fall in the hands of the Americans or to escape from the country”.
It is necessary to look for solutions and find them among all Cubans, in a national dialogue, taking into account that massive exodus increases and regional stability can be at stake. Changes are not a source of instability, crises are. Gradual and pacific change and a lasting and prosperous stability are directly proportional.
We want to give our opinions about the solutions facing this new announced crisis:
1. When the solution is in the hands of men we should not tempt God asking for a “miracle”. The same way the devil proposed to Jesus “to turn the stones into bread” when he was starving. The stone of obstinacy and resistance to change cannot be swallowed like the daily bread. Slowness and superficial reforms is not the oven for that daily bread. A national dialogue without exclusions is the habitat of solutions.
2. When crises repeat themselves we have to find the root cause of the problem. We believe that the deep root cause is that “the model doesn’t work not even for us” just as another Cuban leader once stated. The root cause of the problem is that what is to be changed has not been changed: a state, centralized and inefficient economic model into a social market model, with different ways of property, freedom for Cuban entrepreneurs, legality for small and middle enterprise, openness to investment from Cubans in the Island and in the Diaspora, safety and credibility for foreign investors and creditors, all of it under the unrestricted respect and promotion of all human rights: civil and political, economic, social, cultural and environmental rights.
3 .And last but not least: Cuba should not fall into the hands of a new dependency, or come back to the past, or repeat the present. Cuba should only fall into the only hands which will make it free, prosperous and happy: the industrious and undertaking hands of the very Cubans, women and men. Only by lifting the blocking to the initiative and creativity of Cubans wherever they live and whatever they think, Cuban will be able to get rid of this long and endless economic crisis.
This is the only way openness to diversification of international markets will make sense and be efficient. It has to be through a sound balance between the United States and the European Union, Latin America and Asia, North and South. So we won’t depend on hegemonic impoverishing subsidies of any kind.
We are sure that the Cuban people will find the way out by means of peace and dialogue. Let’s not ask for more endurance but for resilience, which is the capacity to turn blows and restrictions into constructive and vital energy; the blows and restrictions inflicted by bad governance and the subhuman inclination to clash with the same stone one more time.
We Cubans want it and we can do it; we just must get the stone out of the way and push the wall.
And this is our task too.
Come on, let’s work.
Pinar del Río July 10th, 2016.