English (Editorials)

33 - Private property, sense of belonging and the economy in Cuba


Editorial 33. May-June-2013
Cuba won’t be able to change without a deep change regarding the exercise of everyone’s right to all kinds of property over the tangible and non-tangible material goods; the sense of belonging, the economic development and the degree of democratic participation depend mostly on this point.
The relationship between property and progress is the same relationship that exists between freedom and human-social development. It’s also the same relation that exists between citizen sovereignty and democratic participation. No country can progress if every citizen is not able to exercise his personal and community sovereignty over the means, goods and tangible and spiritual creations. Cuba does not advance economically because the property of all the means of production, the enterprises with impact on economy and all economic and financial, importer and exporter relations in the nation are in the hands of the State.
The blockade of the Cuban State on the exercise of the right to the different ways of property is the deepest cause of the economic crisis that Cuba is going through. Either external or internal blockades must stop. Both are ethically objectionable. Above all, it is unacceptable the blockade that a small group of Cubans in power exerts on the enterprising initiatives of the immense majority of their compatriots, in the Island and in the Diaspora.
The Pope John Paul II used to say it with emphasis: “May Cuba open itself up to the world and the world open itself up to Cuba”. But this call is still unanswered through urgent and substantial reforms. The blockade on the property and the private initiative is the root cause which is in the very structures of the economy and politics. It is about the inefficiency of the economic system and not only about the lack of resources. It is about the fact that the model does not work because it is centralized in the hands of the State bureaucracy and not only because the levels of productivity are very low.
There is no responsibility without property
The question is not the mere need of a greater control, demand and discipline, as the slogans repeat, but the root cause of everything is the lack of responsibility on the part of the citizens and the bureaucrats who don’t have sense of belonging, not because they are bad but because they are sane due to the fact that almost nothing which has an effect on the economy belongs to them, not even their desk. How could we ask someone “to feel” that he is the owner of something if he does not have the property or part of the stocks of his company, of his farm or his dreams of progress in the country in which he lives? How can we ask people for a greater “sense of belonging” if nothing or almost nothing important in the Country belongs to them? How can we achieve that someone “feels to be a part” of something if he “does not have” a significant part in the economy of his country, nor in the medium neither in the great business initiative; nor in the investments neither in the services, the commerce, the wholesale market and neither in the strategic plans of his own country?
Cuba needs greater degrees of freedom to rebuild its future; but to attain freedom without assuming responsibility means trying to get in circulation a one-side coin. The other side of the same coin of progress is personal, business, cooperative, community, public responsibility. And responsibility only emerges and grows when the citizen can exercise the right to property; all kinds of property: personal, business, cooperative, mixed, private and public property.
A prosperous and sustainable socialism cannot exist without the citizen exercise of all ways of property. Even more, a true economy cannot exist without property and effective and safe belonging. The Economic and Social Guidelines of the Party and the Revolution in their first issues are beyond all doubt: the Government and the Communist Party of Cuba intend to maintain, “to bring up to date” and not change, the already known model of socialism with centralized economy totally planned by the State; and the plan includes those rising “independent jobs” which are a euphemism for a small list of allowed medieval trades.
The rest of the reforms, though they are closer to rationality and open new possibilities for jobs, belong to the logic of precariousness to open up the possibilities of survival a bit more. All of the reforms, included the ones that intend to create a sustainable agriculture or small private services clash with the wall of the State blockade, the obsolete structural frame of which, constrains the ones who try to progress; this frame intimidates productivity, limits the expansion of wealth creation and bureaucratizes the laws of market.
It is not possible to grow productively if whereas the private initiative pushes and the enterprising character of Cubans show, these “awakenings” of progress and creativity stay trapped by the restrictions of a model of centralized economy and basically ruled by the State; a model that bases its dynamics on control, saving and confiscation and at the same time it doesn’t release the other kinds of property, only the State one, centralized and demonstrably inefficient for more than five decades. Enough time for this economic, political and social “experiment”.
Urgent Proposals
For the most immediate present Cuba should set out to the following structural reforms:
  1. 1.To acknowledge, protect and promote all kinds of property: private, cooperative, mixed, participatory, State property.
  2. 2.To acknowledge, protect and promote the right to entrepreneurial freedom and self-management and business joint management.
  3. 3.To acknowledge, protect and promote the right of all Cubans to investment, inside and outside the Country.
  4. 4.To acknowledge, protect and promote the right of all Cubans to domestic and foreign trade.
This kind of reforms relating to the acknowledgement and the exercise of property, guarantees, on one side, the fulfilment of the Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Covenant which has already been signed by the Cuban Government but has not been ratified to turn it into an own law; it has not been implemented and has not even been foreseen in the Economic and Social Guidelines which are an endless engagement book that resembles a dog chasing its own tail.
On the other hand, the exercise of the right to property, business freedom, investment and commerce on the part of Cubans from the Island and from the Diaspora, is the only sane way to promote the “sense of belonging” because only if we have what belongs to us by right and by work; only if we really are a significant and active part of management and business property, of finance, commerce and investment in our own country, the productive forces can be taken care of, renewed, increased and supported and also the ecosystem can be taken care of, wealth can be created and it can be distributed with increasing degrees of social justice.                        
What do we own to negotiate with CELAC (1), the United States, the European Union and the rest of the world?
Cuba needs to open itself up to the world. There is no isolated economy in a globalized world. And we agree that all blockades, embargos and internal and external obstacles to commerce and cooperation must be lifted. But how is it possible to trade, cooperate and be inserted in the world economy if the Country doesn’t work, the initiative is not released, the productivity doesn’t rise, the corruption moves forward, bureaucracy slows things down, the old structures are reluctant to change, the property continues in the hands of the State that cannot cope with everything and it should not do it?
What is Cuba negotiating with, if material wealth is not created, if all ways of property are not recognized, if there is not an implementation of a change to a social model of market that respects economic laws, releases productive forces, changes the relations of production so we can speak an understandable language for each other and hold talks?
Almost all the other countries have market economy, private property, commerce with less and less obstacles, finance going into consolidation, and a tax and credit system that stimulates business initiative, the creation of wealth. A significant number of these countries work for the ecological sustainability and they try a diversified international economic exchange without foreign dependence. Interdependence and integration represent the new formula of world economy.
Unfortunately, Cuba still cannot negotiate, on the basis of an acceptable reciprocity, with that community of nations made up of the countries from CELAC, the European Union, China, or the United States, if the old inefficient economic structure, which is non-existent in today’s world, is maintained.
The true and substantial economic reforms are not only absolutely necessary and urgent to reach a flourishing and sustainable economy but they are a premise in order to negotiate and establish sustainable international economic relations for commerce and credit, on equal conditions, though with different degrees of development. These economic reforms would also be useful to prevent the dependence of Cuba on one nation or a regional bloc. This dependence is ethically unacceptable as well as blockades and embargos; blockades and embargos from abroad or from the Cuban State on the exercise of the human rights of its citizens, on the internal economy, on happiness and on sustainable progress.
We believe that Cuba won’t be able to open itself up to the world and the world won’t be able to negotiate with Cuba if the Cuban State does not open itself up to its citizens, definitely and simultaneously, with the respect and the acknowledgement of all human, economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights, without which, we will have nothing or almost nothing to produce, offer, negotiate or exchange with the rest of the nations even if they have much good will.
Dialogues and negotiations, commercial treaties and regional integrations will be started in vain, with an inefficient country. Time will confirm that without authentic economic, social and political reforms, based on the Human Rights Covenants, Cuba will have almost nothing to put on bilateral negotiating tables, regional treaties or presidential summits. Economy is not deceitful. Neither is reality.
However, the talent, the work and the high capacity of service and initiative of Cubans (women and men), are always there. They just must be released.  
There is no time to waste.
Pinar del Río, May 8th 2013.
(1) CELAC: Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean.