Saturday, December 4, 2010

Cuba mulls embracing market economy -- of a sort

Cuba mulls embracing market economy -- of a sort
Published: Dec. 3, 2010 at 7:06 PM

HAVANA, Dec. 3 (UPI) -- Cuba is actively considering political and
economic changes that aim to transform its centrally monitored socialist
economy into a market economy that may have more in common with China
than any of the industrial countries.

The first inkling of the planned exploratory foray came after news the
government had ordered a "debate" on capitalism and "the future of the
Cuban nation."

Cuba has been struggling with the effects of a global economic slowdown
and restrictive government policies that prevented the country from
responding to the downturn in a way that could help its recovery.

Cuba's thriving "informal" economy has already responded to capitalism
in more ways than the government wants to acknowledge.

As in China, the Cuban old guard is coming round to the idea of some
limited experimentation with capitalism so long as it doesn't compromise
their revolutionary ideals.

Official comments on the impending change said the government would take
measures to preserve victories of the revolution -- an indication that
any shift toward capitalism would be cautious and guarded.

As one of the first steps, the government plans to liberalize private
enterprise -- though only up to a point -- recognize ownership rights
for small farmers and make the state democracy more efficient.

Government efficiency plans call for cutting back on jobs -- a
potentially troublesome option amid tough economic conditions. Officials
have suggested up to half a million government jobs may be on the line.

In the meantime, Cubans have been given the opportunity to sound off on
issues of national importance between December and February 2011. They
will be able to make recommendations at meetings of party organizations,
unions, neighborhood groups and workplace groups.

The state newspaper Granma in an editorial said, "Nobody should remain
with an unexpressed opinion, much less be prevented from expressing it."

It explained, "The Party demands the maximum transparency from all its
organizations, the greatest clarity in analysis, the clarification of
all doubts and anxieties we may have within the bosom of the Revolution."

"At stake is the future of the Cuban nation," Granma said.

Critics remain skeptical about the debate, however. Cuba allows only one
political party, the Communist Party, but the state-sponsored comments
indicate a willingness to allow some comment.

Previous attempts at dissent have landed critics of the government in
trouble and many of them remain wary of taking up the offer to make
public their views on the political system.

Recent government admissions cited declining productivity, shortfalls in
infrastructure and inefficiency as among reasons for a review of the system.

Cuba's large debts to foreign exporters and suppliers, although
recognized by officials, are yet to be discussed within any new
framework that includes the country honoring international commitments.

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