More Incentives Than Bans
By José Alejandro Rodríguez
August 22, 2020
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.
Now that Cuba is on the offensive against economic crime, corruption and all sorts of indiscipline and violations, the most sensible thing is not to limit ourselves only to repudiating and neutralizing these demonstrations and the police operations. We must also diagnose with a perennial scalpel the socioeconomic causes that generate these evils and distortions, in order to prevent them and remove them at their roots.
Without ignoring the syndrome of asphyxiation caused by the imperturbable American blockade, the recent self-critical recognition by the country’s authorities of the slowness and lack of integrality in the process of updating the Cuban economic model in recent years is at least promising. And in the midst of so many difficulties and hardships, the new post-Covid-19 strategy raises expectations and encouragement to face the crisis. It also aims to translate into irreversible transformations what is pending in guiding documents such as the Economic and Social Guidelines and the Conceptualization of our Socialist Model.
In the opinion of many Cuban economists, who have been loyal to socialism since the brave critical and saving diagnosis, the recently announced strategy confers a much more audacious, systemic and integrating emphasis to transformations: it removes knots and obstacles to productive forces. It decentralizes and confers greater horizontality. It promotes food self-sustainability, greater export diversity and less dependence on imports. It makes the economy more democratic and invigorates entrepreneurship, because it seeks complementarity and similar possibilities among the different forms of ownership and management. It promotes incentives rather than prohibitions. It opens the doors of the watertight compartments.
Of course, these are the purposes. Changes will take time to reap their fruits, paradoxically in a fight against time. What is important about this strategy is not only its goals, but the way in which they are expressed, the intelligent ways to open those gates without being flooded and swallowed by the transformations. The other would be to fail through dogmatic starvation, to accept that economic problems continue to be faced with voluntary administrative measures and the attachment to the ucase, which is never political.
To the liberating and emancipatory character of the announced measures, the permanent scientific diagnosis of the transforming work should be added, so that from an observatory the errors and deviations in the shaping can be corrected. And at the same time promote the feedback of the states of opinion and popular consensus in terms of decision making.
For now, the daily episodes of police operations on economic crime reveal how far the Cuban economy has been submerged for years in the black market and illegalities, and in social coexistence with moral deterioration, to the nation’s detriment. And at the same time they alert us to how many distortions and design errors need to be corrected.
I will never justify crime and economic fraud no matter how difficult the circumstances. But it is also true that we lived for years among too many economic prohibitions that are now beginning to be rectified. And a proverbial ability to transgress the “legal” in order to survive was created, while it took a long time for these realistic processes of validation and sincerity to be carried out for many activities that were considered alien to the socialist ideal.
The result is what we are witnessing. Hence, post-Covid-19, with the ramifications of the world economic crisis and the perennial Yankee blockade, there will be no alternative but to assume all the risks of the transformations. On the one hand, rigor and discipline; on the other, incentive and entrepreneurship so that honest work, whether State-run or not, is the cornerstone that leads us to prosperity without abandoning social justice.