Cuba: Socialism, Private Property and Wealth
June 8, 2017
By Fernando Ravsberg
HAVANA TIMES — The Cuban Parliament has finally approved the groundwork
for the reforms process put forward by President Raul Castro and his
government. However, it has done so with some reserves, the most
sensitive subject seems to revolve around private businesses and a
consequent accumulation of wealth.
Legalizing private property over modes of production has raised clear
suspicions among some legislators. They fear that wealth will start
becoming concentrated and that this will lead the country to experience
a social inequality similar to that in the rest of Latin America.
However, economists ensure them that without the accumulation of
capital, private businesses won't be able to develop to such an extent.
Business people need to reinvest, they need funds to put up with losses,
they need tax breaks from the start and personal financial incentives.
So then we reach a point where social differences will inevitably
deepen. The national economy can no longer be regulated by the socialist
laws of "From each according to his ability, to each according to his
contribution", not even in theory.
Although, it's only the shreds of this economic principle that remain in
reality and it's been like this for a long time. Ever since salaries
lost their real value in the '90s, the prevailing axiom in the economy
seems to be "From each according to his/her astuteness, to each
according to their cunning."
"Meritocracy" has also lost popular support, according to which those
who piled up revolutionary duties could live better than the rest of
Cubans. The problem here is that it became hereditary and today their
children are enjoying these privileges, even though they have no track
record of contribution of their own.
Inequality isn't the result of "updating the system", it has been
growing since the '90s because of many different factors such as family
remittances, dollarization, opening the national economy to foreign
investment, tourism or children of the elite reaching adulthood.
The reforms seek to "legalize" the country that currently exists, in
some way or another. Self-employment, the underground small and medium
sized business person or those alleged Cuban managers of foreign
companies who are in actual fact the real company owners.
With these changes, the national economy will start to integrate this
underground world, which has been operating on the side for many years.
This grounding in reality will allow a better distribution of wealth
because the government will be able to charge taxes to those people who
have never paid them.
Of course, now there are new dilemmas, like what always happens whenever
you leave stagnation behind and begin to move forward. Some economists
claim that if you don't allow the self-employed to accumulate a bit of
wealth, they will never be able to become business people.
Without accumulation of capital, the only people who can become owners
of small and medium-sized companies are those who receive money from
abroad or those who managed to accumulate it during socialism, a
significant part of whom are corrupt and/or criminals.
In one way or another, this concentration of wealth will lead to
deepening social differences between Cubans and in a poor country this
can even lead to a few people taking the largest slices of cake for
themselves, leaving others without even a taste.
However, the truth is that there is still a lot to establish: How many
employees can a medium-sized company employ? What are the limits on the
accumulation of capital? What government mechanisms will redistribute
wealth? How will the government ensure that there are equal
opportunities for all Cubans in this kind of society?
The terms "private enterprise" or "wealth accumulation" can scare a few
people a lot and encourage others too much, but until details are
revealed, we are only dealing with abstractions. And it will be these
details that then define the country's future socio-economic model.
Source: Cuba: Socialism, Private Property and Wealth - Havana Times.org