Marino Murillo, 50, may have the most thankless job in Cuba or the most satisfying; only time will tell.
He now leads the Permanent Government Commission for Implementation and Development, a group that will report to the Councils of State and Ministers. Having supervised the development of the Lineamientos (draft version here, final not yet released) as Minister of Economy and, since then, their revision in advance of the Party Congress, his job is now to make sure that they are implemented. Murillo is the reform czar, in charge of driving the new policies through the bureaucracy.
He was also promoted to the Party’s political bureau, the top executive body with 15 members.
Murillo’s very spare Communist Party bio is here. La Jornada profiled him here, noting that he was at the center of long, televised sessions of the National Assembly last December where he explained proposed reforms one by one and answered questions.
In the December 17 session, a delegate asked why the government does not regulate the prices charged by Cuba’s expanding number of small entrepreneurs. His answer and an interjection by Raul Castro follow:
Murillo: Look, if we expand the workings of the economy with non-state organizations and services, don’t even dream that we are going to be able to control all those prices, it is absolutely impossible. We can do a test if you want, we don’t have to invent anything. The official state price of a haircut was 80 cents – and in the City of Havana if you didn’t pay ten pesos [12 times the state-mandated price], they didn’t cut your hair. The price is posted, now who is going to go chasing after all the barbers so they charge 80 cents and no more, if people pay ten pesos in the marketplace?
There will be sectors that we are studying where prices can be fixed, aware that we will be able to control the fee and the price that we set, but to set so that everyone will violate it, that makes no sense, no sense at all.
There are some experiments out there, mainly in the eastern provinces. There are drivers who are given certain resources such as fuel, they have a fixed route, and their price is set for them. Here are the presidents [the local officials], one of them could explain how this is done, but this can be done in certain activities.
And also, to set a mandated price you have to guarantee a differentiated price [for inputs] because if you tell a private entrepreneur, “You have to pay for fuel at market prices and on top of that you have to charge the fares that I tell you to charge,” and if the man can’t make a profit, he will say, “The truck is not going out on the street.”
That is to say, only in exceptional cases will there be studies of the kind of activities in which prices and fees may be fixed. There are many things.
Compañeros, the State can perfectly well regulate the ties between the State and the individual, but to try to control the ties and the relations between individuals is the most difficult thing there is, in this we cannot exert ourselves even for a minute. And that is work, under those conditions, that is a tie between individuals.
Let’s set a fee to say how much it is worth in Cuba to care for a sick person. There is one sick person who needs to be tended to but is not disabled, there is another that needs to be tended to but is disabled and you have to do everything for him. Are we going to set a rate for that, a method for that? For this situation it’s 20, for that one it’s 30, for that one it’s such an amount. Those are agreements between individuals, although there are very specific things that, as I said, we could review.
Raul Castro: Marino, it’s that it takes getting used to. As Marino explained it, regulate the relations of the State with the individual, but the State doesn’t have to get into the relations between individuals, nor does the government, nor anyone. Why do we have to get into people’s lives? (Applause)