Wednesday, September 26, 2007

“Socialism allows for variations”

Here, courtesy of the Miami radio program “La Noche Se Mueve,” is an interview (Spanish, pdf) with Cuban economist Pedro Monreal, who works at the University of Havana’s Center for Research on the International Economy (CIEI).

The interview was given earlier this month when Monreal attended the Latin American Studies Association convention, which was held in Canada so that the Cuban delegation could participate.

Monreal is an academic, not a policy-making official, and he makes clear that he speaks in a personal capacity. But his comments on the Cuba’s economy and policy options are an interesting window on the ideas circulating in Cuba today.

It’s a long interview. For English-speaking readers, here are a few of the points he makes:

  • On the meaning of “structural change:” “Basically we are talking about institutional changes…eventually, including changes in types of property, organization, and systems of incentives.”

  • On political consensus: “…reforms that imply a structural modification will first require a political consensus…that today is not known; there is an intention to change, but my reading is that in Cuba there is now emerging a relatively slow process in search of a political consensus that could set the guide lines of this move to structural change.”

  • How to fix agriculture? “…I believe there would have to be a change in the way land ownership is structured…one would have to put at the disposal of private producers, family enterprises, and also cooperatives, a substantial part of the land – and not only that, but more flexible elements of land management would have to be introduced; so that not everything would be through such a centralized management, but also permitting a role for the market…”

  • On the state’s role: “I am among those who consider that a socialist state can accommodate – it’s not a contradiction – can accommodate a sector of domestic private property much more extensive than is being considered in Cuba now...I do not believe that a state must concern itself with endless things that today are done by state enterprises that do not do them efficiently and where it is proven that the private sector and cooperatives can do them much better.”

  • On credit: “…there could exist a specialized financial sector, a state bank that would specialize in providing capital to persons who can demonstrate with a plan that they can be successful…but the question as to whether the state necessarily has to concern itself with auto body work, shoe repair, making electric appliances or repairing, I don’t know, blenders or producing food – not necessarily, that can be organized on the basis of cooperatives or domestic private businesses.”

  • Are these the ideas in Raul Castro’s July 26 speech? “…I’m not very sure because, really, what the July 26 speech did was to open a process that is not at all going to be a fast process; it is a process that implies, simultaneously, a reflection, the search for a consensus, and to implement some measures, because there are things that cannot wait for a finely developed consensus, for example, the typical case of food production is a problem that I hope is resolved in Cuba in the next year…”

  • On Cuba’s dual-currency system: “My opinion is that the coexistence of two currencies is an economic disaster…there has long been a realization on the part of the Cuban government that this had to be resolved, it is not sustainable…What blocks the solution that everyone knows is necessary? What blocks it is the lack of productivity in the Cuban state sector; if the state sector that supports that currency is not productive, the problem of unifying the currency can never be resolved…”


Mambi_Watch said...

Thanks so much for the summary, its a very informative post.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone think his ideas will be implemented by the Cuban gvt.? It is an honest question, not a rethorical one.

Anonymous said...

Anon, I have no idea if they will implement these policies in particular, but reform of some kind is underway. The time is ripe for that. What I'm sure about is that they won't accept any bullying from US or any other country. That simply don't work. Hard pressures and conditionings like the embargo may moves us towards a civil war in the long run if the situation worsens.

Tomás Estrada-Palma said...

Any way you slice it, socialism is voting on some portion of the individual's labor output by the ruling structure. I'd prefer to have all my labor and not be to one degree or another - a slave.

Fantomas said...

it took 48 years to think more rational