[Marxism] REUTERS/Frank: Cuba determined to perfect statist economy

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Mon Jun 23 20:33:51 MDT 2008

(In the Western media, every change in Cuba is presented to readers
as a defeat, or as the abandonment of Cuba's effort to do what its
revolutionary teachers, starting with José Martí, said: a society
with all and for the good of all. As Fidel reminded everyone in 
that prologue to his new book on Bolivia, just sent out today:

("We do not pretend to be a model for the construction of socialism, 
but we do hope to set an example in the defence of the right to 
construct it."

(And as Cuba's independence apostle, José Martí also explained:
"I have had to work quietly and somewhat indirectly, because to 
achieve certain objectives, they must be kept under cover; to 
proclaim them for what they are would raise such difficulties 
that the objectives could not be attained."

(Those who think Raul is going to take Cuba along the Chinese path
know little about Cuba, China, Raul or Fidel, either. Marc Frank has
lived in Cuba for over 20 years and is a very well-informed person.)

Cuba determined to perfect statist economy
By Marc Frank in Havana
Published: June 23 2008 19:04 

At the recent metal workers' union congress in Havana little seemed
to have changed since Fidel Castro, former Cuban president, became
ill almost two years ago, temporarily handing power to his brother
Raúl before resigning and leaving the country's leadership to him
last February.

There was no jockeying among cadres for a piece of privatised
industry pie. There was no talk of competition, markets, strikes or
other action against management, or turning state-owned businesses
into co-operatives. Speeches calling on members to work harder for
Cuba, Fidel, Raúl and revolution resounded through the hall as they
have for decades.

"The key is in perfeccionamiento empresarial" - perfecting the state
company system - read the banner headline in Workers, the trade union
federation's weekly newspaper.

The union meeting was the latest evidence that a debate fostered by
Raúl Castro has for now been settled in favour of those who want to
improve one of the world's most statist economies - not dismantle it
- using a business model developed when the president was defence
minister to improve the performance of armed forces suppliers.

Perfeccionamiento empresarial is based on adopting modern management
and accounting practices, often gleaned from the study of private
corporations, for state-run companies. It grants management more
authority over day-to-day decisions and imposes more discipline on
workers while also increasing their participation in decisions and
incentives for labour.

"Perfeccionamiento empresarial has no exact analogy in capitalist
economies and is not borrowed from other socialist countries' models
of reform," Phil Peters, an expert on Cuba at the Lexington Institute
in Virginia, wrote in a study of the military's economic model.

Raúl Castro signed a 200-page law last August ordering all 3,000
state-run companies to adopt the model. He also promoted General
Julio Casas Regueiro, who was in charge of the military's businesses,
to defence minister and top spots in the Communist party and
government when he officially became president on February 24.

The policy does not contradict Raúl Castro's recent moves to lift
restrictions on the use of mobile phones, computers and other goods
and services, nor partnerships with foreign companies and more
private initiatives. The bulk of the economy and its core industries
and finances will remain in state hands.

Raúl Castro is not waiting for all companies to adopt his model - a
lengthy process of sorting out bad books, Soviet-style management and

Cuba's economy is on a better footing than in the 1990s. Foreign
exchange earnings are relatively strong due to the export of medical
and other professional services - mainly to Venezuela - as well as
tourism, high nickel prices and soft Chinese loans.

But the state has had problems investing these revenues through its
many companies, many of which suffer from poor accounting and

"Perfeccionamiento does not aim to turn Cuba into a China or Taiwan
in terms of level of development and integration into globalisation.
In the end, the objective is political," said Frank Mora, Cuba expert
at the War College in Washington.

"Raúl Castro needs to defuse the social, economic and political
pressure of rising expectations and increasing food costs by
implementing and broadening a set of very focused economic reforms."

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008


Los Angeles, California
"Cuba - Un Paraiso bajo el bloqueo"

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