Cuba’s economic growth does not depend on Washington

Just some days ago the Emily Morris Academy published an article sustaining that Cuba is not facing a failure, but rather a challenge. The challenge is the currency reform. In its text it also defended the thesis that the Cuban government had waited for an improvement in relations with the United States to take the step, announced a long time ago, but Donald Trump’s arrival in the White House is straining that expectation. Right or wrong, the thesis had a rationality difficult to contradict.

What I’m interested in highlighting today is what we necessarily have to learn from the U.S. presidential succession. I also advance that Cuba is not the country that can come out most affected with this new U.S. political reality that we could call TRUMPVOLUTION (TRUMP- REVOLUTION, TRUMP-EVOLUTION, TRUMP-INVOLUTION). The marked protectionist propensity of the almost already president places many dark clouds over the future of many countries, especially in our region. Meanwhile, his genetic xenophobia, of which in addition he boasts, is turning the life of millions of persons in the United States and outside that country into a headache.

To place things in their historical order I feel obliged to say, first of all, that the process of transformations that our country has been experiencing in the last 10 years greatly precedes the events of the Day of San Lázaro in 2014, when we were all surprised with the happy news that both governments had agreed to try to rebuild a relationship broken many decades ago.

I think this point is important. Cuba had its own program of transformations way before this. In fact the transforming effort began before the updating program (The Guidelines…) was discussed publicly.

The program of the Cuban reforms was, in the first place, a response to emergencies that needed to be recognized first and resolved later. Afterwards this process confirmed that we needed more than an alternative to the situation; that we had to count fundamentally on our own effort and result. Today in some opinion segments and even among some Cuban experts (although I must specify that is not the case with the Emily Morris article) there has been a growing vision that the process of transformations was always supported by the idea of possible changes in U.S. policy toward Cuba, something strictly inexact in historical terms.

Many of us believed that with a Democrat government our worries and problems could have been less, although neither is it possible to guarantee this categorically; that the road to continue this process of reconstructing relations between both countries could be easier also sounded more credible. But the Democrat option was not the one that won, and already today, after the president-elect’s first appointments of his cabinet and of his first tweets, no one doubts that uncertainty and doubt will be an inherent part of this new government. We can do nothing to change it, so let’s learn to live with it.

To wrestle with the new situation let’s underline some points that became more evident with Donald Trump’s election:

That we have to understand that the solution to our problems has to essentially come from ourselves.

That we don’t have to repeat situations of dependence with big countries or expect that an external support again appears.

That there is no way of being able to anticipate the day we stop being a blockaded country, therefore the United States must be incorporated into our development equation as a constant with an indefinite sign.

That we can take advantage of the opportunity of increasingly diversifying our international economic relations and make stronger and more varied the presence of companies from different countries in Cuba, for trade as well as for investment.

That we must also qualitatively improve the role of the domestic, state and non-state, economic agents and think about the national economy as a whole. I still remember that slogan from the early 1960s that said “consuming Cuban products helps the homeland.” Well then, now we must update it and say “producing, exporting and consuming Cuban goods and services helps the homeland.” Of course, for this the first thing we must do is to produce them and before that producers must be incentivized.

That we must promote the technological leap that is necessary from a diversification perspective to reach the highest degree possible of technological independence.

2017 will be a difficult year, but we have insufficiently used sources of growth. For example:

1-We are very far from the borders of productivity and efficiency. Even with the technology we have today, a great deal of it obsolete, we still have spaces where we have to advance and almost 100% depends on postponed or semi-detained changes.

2-We are also very far from taking advantage of the foreign direct investment that is already functioning in the country, and even farther from taking advantage of so many foreign investors’ interest in Cuba.

3-We still haven’t resolved adequately the incentives for exports, partly due to the exchange distortion, but also partly due to the prejudices that haven’t disappeared: Is it negative that whoever contributes to increasing exports earns what they deserve? Is it obligatory to still deal with enterprises that meet that Kafkanian condition of being profitable in hard currency and unprofitable in national currency? Why do we still have to circumscribe the exporting effort to the state enterprises, almost exclusively?

4-Why continue wasting fiscal resources and wages on supposed state enterprises which are only that by name, like the so-called state-run cafeterias and restaurants? What do they actually have of socialist? What do the fundamental means of production have that are strategic for the development of the country or national security? Who slows down their transformation into another type of enterprise? Who benefits with this and who is being affected? Isn’t it perhaps better to use that wage fund for our primary education teachers, for example?

To resolve a part of these matters we don’t need for Donald Trump be a more affirmative president with Cuba. Neither is it indispensable that he lift the blockade. Let’s not forget that in one of Raúl Castro’s first speeches as president he urged to stop blaming the Blockade for our own inefficiencies. This idea continues being fundamental for the immediate years, starting with this 2017.

Let’s face our mirror again, better still, let’s submit ourselves to an intense scan, like in the first years of the process of transformations begun in 2011. Everything that needs to be changed must be changed. Today we have in addition the advantage of six years of learning.

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