Cuba’s reforms: necessary and well-received

| July 5, 2013 | 0 Comments
Jack pumps in Cuba’s Boca De Jaruco oil field.

Jack pumps in Cuba’s Boca De Jaruco oil field.

Diplomatic relations between Canada and Cuba are more than a half-century old, characterized by respect and sincere dialogue. Canada is among Cuba’s main trading partners as seen in tourism numbers alone — more than a million Canadians visit each year, drawn by the beauty of the landscape and its people’s hospitality.
However, misinformation about the Cuban reality and campaigns against Cuba by parts of the international media have attempted to distort the perception of what is happening there today.

For several years, Cuba’s government and people have been working to increase productivity and motivate workers by eliminating the egalitarianism and improving the redistribution of income within the population. We are doing this while still preserving a social system that looks out for poorer people.

Canada has been supportive of our country, and thus joined 187 countries in a 2012 UN General Assembly vote for “ending the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States of America against Cuba.” Only the U.S., Israel and Palau voted against this resolution.

More than a million Canadians visit Cuba’s sandy beaches every year.

More than a million Canadians visit Cuba’s sandy beaches every year.

Cuba’s efforts to improve the lives of its citizens were signalled by a reform guideline approved in August 2011 during the Sixth Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba. It analysed the external factors affecting the country — including the U.S. economic embargo — as well as the internal weaknesses of the Cuban economy. Its strategy was discussed with citizens at more than 163,000 meetings in universities, workplaces and neighbourhoods.

Reforms were intended to reorganize the way the government works, and to review and re-orient investment. The plan’s emphasis is on agriculture, tourism, biotechnology, energy and mining and pharmaceuticals.

A review of the tax system and a territorial rearrangement are some of the main changes introduced in this new process, from which all Cuban citizens will benefit. (Notably, Havana province was divided into two provinces, Mayabeque and Artemisa, to increase efficiency by simplifying the management structures of local governments.
Another measure expected in the coming years is the establishment of a single currency based on labour productivity and an effective distribution and redistribution mechanism. Currently, Cuba has two national currencies, the Cuban convertible peso (CUC), which was implemented as an alternative to the U.S. dollar, and the Cuban peso.
The Cuban economy faces a slow-down in macroeconomic indicators such as GDP and an acute shortage of foreign capital, largely the result of the global economic crisis and the worsening of the U.S. blockade, applied for more than 50 years against Cuba.
So Cuba is planning to lessen its dependence on international markets, increase exports, regulate foreign investment and develop self-employment and co-operatives within the country.

Another measure has been to decentralize the national government’s power by providing more independence to local governments to allow them to solve problems better.

In restructuring agriculture, arrangements for people to farm for 25 years on idle state-owned lands are to be extended for another 25 years to increase food production and reduce reliance on imports.

Since the ’90s, Cuban farmers have been developing urban organic agriculture for the production of vegetables and plants in cities. In suburban agriculture, new techniques include the use of organic fertilizers, pest elimination with crop rotation, and the use of renewable energy. It’s all part of the government’s effort to develop a sustainable economy to support a better quality of life for Cubans.

To ease the burden on the state in some public services, the government has leased barbershops, beauty parlours and taxi services to their existing employees. It also created non-agricultural co-operatives in service and manufacturing sectors. Today these efforts are working and have the support of the people.

The re-distribution of income, thanks to a state-run economy, has made free health care, education and access to culture and sports possible in an underdeveloped country beset by blockades. Washington’s blockade has caused the loss of over a trillion dollars to the Cuban economy and made it difficult to develop efficiently for five decades.

Due to the blockade, Cuba cannot use the U.S. dollar for transactions, so it needs foreign exchange to import any goods, which increases freight and insurance costs. Cuba had to build economic and trade ties with far distant countries such as China, Russia and members of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas. We have also imported from Brazil, Spain, France and Angola, among others.

This process of updating the economic model is under way to maintain the achievements of a 54-year-old revolutionary process. Rectifying mistakes while taking into account the interests of the people and the social policies of the 1959 Revolution, have been the cornerstone of the validity of socialism in Cuba.

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