[Marxism] Cuba Debates Economic Path Ahead Under Raul Castro

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Thu Feb 8 00:41:55 MST 2007

Cuba Debates Economic Path Ahead Under Raul Castro

By Marc Frank 
Reuters February 7, 2007

HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuban economists are busy studying ways to rev up
one of the world's last communist-run economies, a step encouraged by
acting President Raul Castro since he took over from his ailing
brother six months ago.

The debate is focused on how to make Cuba's inefficient command
economy more productive and take advantage of newfound financial
buoyancy in foreign exchange earnings.

"There is consensus on our goals: more popular participation, the
country's development and a better material and spiritual life,"
China expert and economics professor Evelio Vilarino told Reuters
this week at a globalization conference. "Where there is no consensus
is on how best to achieve that."

In a series of end-of-the-year speeches, Raul Castro expressed
frustration with bureaucracy, demanded answers to declining food
output, urged Cuba's press to be more critical and authorized a study
of socialist property relations.

Cuban economist and agriculture expert Amando Nova said agriculture
reforms of the early 1990s -- when Cuba divided state farms into
worker cooperatives and legalized private produce markets -- stopped

"We need farmers to participate more in production and price
decisions, to be able to purchase inputs and in general enjoy more
autonomy from the state," said Nova, who is involved in a report on
agriculture commissioned by the government.

Similar reports are being prepared on other sectors of the economy
where the state dictates most output and prices in exchange for
inputs and credits.

Many experts view Raul Castro, 75, as more pragmatic than his brother
and believe he could steer Cuba's 90 percent state-run economy toward
one that resembles the more open Chinese model.


Luis Marcelo Yera of the National Economic Research Institute, a
member of the panel looking into property relations, said Cuba is
taking a path closer to one of his favorite Japanese sayings.

"Adapt, don't adopt -- we can adapt the best experiences but not
adopt another's model," he said.

Marcelo said the panel was "looking at better defining property under
socialism ... because experience has demonstrated it has many
problems functioning."

Cuba's foreign exchange earnings have nearly doubled over the last
two years, thanks mainly to the export of medical and other services
to Venezuela and record-high nickel prices.

Economic growth has sped up to three times its pace at the start of
the decade when Cuba was pulling out of the economic collapse that
followed the collapse of its former benefactor, the Soviet Union, in

Nevertheless, the state has run into problems investing the revenues
through its more than 3,000 state-run companies. The economy also
suffers from chronic disorganization, bad accounting, poor quality,
lax discipline and graft.

The head of parliament's economic commission, Osvaldo Martinez, told
Reuters the debate over economic policy probably would be taking
place even if President Fidel Castro were not too ill to govern.

"We are not talking about the Chinese model, but a Cuban model, the
best way forward given Cuba's possibilities, realities, resources and
problems," Martinez said.

Some Cuban economists believe that only by adopting China's model of
a capitalist market under communist political control, or at a
minimum by decentralizing and developing private cooperatives and
markets in nonstrategic sectors, can internal production be improved.

Others say any opening would provide the United States with a chance
to topple the socialist system.

Agriculture specialist Nova said taking steps to loosen the economy
would not threaten his sector.

"Decentralization and more autonomy would result in more production
and food security, consolidating our economy and making us less
vulnerable," he said.

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