Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Cuba Won't Abandon Socialism Just Yet

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Cuba Won't Abandon Socialism Just Yet

Article excerpt

Has Cuba finally realized that its socialist economic system suffers from serious flaws, and even more important, that substantial market- oriented reforms are needed to overcome such flaws?

Last month, Cuba's Communist Youth newspaper, Juventud Rebelde, ran a three-part story on illegalities in the Cuban society that disclosed the results of an investigation by its undercover reporters into state businesses in the capital, Havana. The overall picture was one of rampant theft, widespread fraudulent practices, and extreme inefficiency in most retail stores and services of the Cuban capital.

The newspaper also revealed that a local team of academic specialists would begin studying the issue of "socialist property" in Cuba in search of ways to improve the current economic model.

The latest debate within Cuba about the problems of socialism has sparked optimism among some US experts. They now expect major changes on the island that would result in the adoption of market reforms, rather than the usual calls by the Castro regime for more discipline and control.

This view is mainly justified by the fact that the Cuban debate is fueling criticism of the entire economic system. This criticism has been almost certainly approved at the highest levels of government. Interestingly, while Juventud Rebelde stopped short of advocating privatization, a Reuters dispatch noted that "some Cuban intellectuals say it would be the best way, even in the form of collective private property, to improve the retail sector."

However, there are reasons to believe that the aforementioned optimism remains largely unfounded under the current conditions.

Here's why.

Since Fidel Castro introduced the socialist system into Cuba almost 50 years ago, the economic policies pursued by his government have exhibited several shifts away from and toward the market.

A reduced emphasis on the role of the state and pragmatic acceptance of market reforms generally occurred in the wake of economic crises or sluggish growth, when the government temporarily put aside its commitment to state control, equality, and moral incentives in favor of liberalizing measures aimed to boost the economy.

But today, the island's economy is in better shape than it has been in years. So why would Cuba support market reforms that would mean a loss of control for the government, and generate social effects such as growing income inequality deemed unacceptable by its leadership? …

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