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
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
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.
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
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