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Posted January 23, 2007 by publisher in Business In Cuba

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By Marc Frank | Reuters

Cuba’s armed forces, which run the Communist country’s most efficient companies, joined a nascent public debate on future economic policy on Tuesday and appeared to take a stance opposed to full free-market reforms.

The debate, said to be prompted by acting President Raul Castro while his ailing brother Fidel Castro recovers from surgery, is aimed at finding solutions for the most glaring problems of an economy 90-percent owned by the state.

Col. Amando Perez Betancourt, the head of the Cuban military’s effort to make state-run companies more profitable, said profits, wages and productivity had been raised in more than 800 companies by applying methods known in Cuba as “perfeccionamiento empresarial”—roughly translated as perfecting of the (state) company system.

“If you ask me what the most important task facing the state companies is, I would say it is better organization and the way to do that is through perfecting the state company system,” Perez told the Communist Party newspaper Granma.

“The numbers speak for themselves,” he said of the business management system introduced by the armed forces two decades ago to help the economy get through the collapse of the Soviet Union while avoiding privatization and market economics.

Col. Perez’s comments contrasted with those of more reform-minded Cuban economists who believe greater opportunity for private initiative is the way forward for Cuba as Fidel Castro fades slowly into the background.

BETTER FOOTING

Some Cuban economists believe that only by adopting China’s model of a capitalist market under Communist political control, or at a minimum by decentralizing and developing private cooperatives in nonstrategic sectors, can internal production be improved.

“‘Perfeccionamiento empresarial’ is not a free-market reform and it is not privatization. But it would benefit Cuba’s economy to carry out the process fully,” said Phil Peters, an expert on Cuba at the Lexington Institute in Virginia.

Col. Perez said productivity at more than 800 companies under the new management system was 42.4 percent above that of other state companies and wages were 22.5 percent higher than average. Only 7 percent operated at a loss in 2006 compared with 38 percent in the economy as a whole.

Cuba’s economy is now on a better footing than it was when the armed forces—under Raul Castro—first introduced the modern management methods to boost their revenues.

Revenues are relatively strong due to the export of medical and other services, mainly to Venezuela, high nickel prices, soft Chinese credits and preferentially financed Venezuelan oil.

Nevertheless, the state has run into problems investing the revenues through its more than 3,000 state-run companies. The economy suffers also from chronic disorganization, poor accounting, low quality, lax discipline and graft.

Raul Castro, who took over when his older brother underwent intestinal surgery in late July, has urged the official media to be more critical of state companies. He has told academics to study socialist economic problems and voiced frustration over inefficiencies.

“We are tired of excuses in this revolution,” Raul Castro snapped during a discussion of economic matters at a parliament session in December.

“There is no question Raul wants improvements, but that does not mean he will go outside the existing system if he thinks it can work better,” a Cuban economist said, asking not to be named.

  1. Follow up post #1 added on January 23, 2007 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Doesn’t sound good for the working class Cubans.

    Government crack down on theft.

    Longer work hours.

    Pay cuts.

    Forced efficiency.

    Performance accountability.

    Less fun.

    Less money.

    More work.

    Not sure Raul will get the support he thinks he is going to get.



    Cuba consulting services

  2. Follow up post #2 added on January 24, 2007 by Varsi Padayachee

    Mr. Publisher, are you talking about the State of Affairs in the US, because it is exactly what mddle class and lower income Americans suffer through every day. We in the US have endured the chipping away of a middle class society, an increasingly growin poor class, and all this amongst working longer hours for less pay.
    Accountability-KATRINA
    Pay cuts-Pfizer, Wal-Mart
    Theft-Abrahamoff, Safavian, Ney, Duke Cunningham
    Longer work hours-Wal Mart
    Less Fun-More poor people
    Less Money-Minimum wage is still around $5.15/hr after about 15 years
    100 million adults and children without health insurance.
    Is this what we want in Cuba?
    If there is such a swelling of compassionate exhuberance to making Cuba a more Democratic Society, the focus should be how we can help, not how we can destroy. The US is no beacon of hope. We torture, we bring down governments who are not friendly, we disrupt the economic stability of countries to satisfy our insatiable hunger for domination and sadly we cannot take care of our own people. Yes, our model is Iraq. This is not a mess. It is an unmitigated disaster. Over 70% of the Iraqis are without food, jobs, and living in abject squalor. Over 600,000 Iraqis killed since our occupation! What a model!
    Oh! talking about sharing the wealth. Proposed oil deals give US companies about 70% of the revenue, until the companies have decided that they have recouped their investments.
    Can anyone wonder why, LATAM and the Caribbean run for covr, when they hear US Trade Reps tell them, “Have I got a deal for you”!


  3. Follow up post #3 added on January 24, 2007 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    I think you are taking a minority population in the US and comparing it to the majority of the population in Cuba.

    Also, if you lived in Cuba and wanted to talk this way about the Cuban government, you couldn’t, shouldn’t and probably wouldn’t.

    I think you need to balance your negativity towards the US and positivity towards communism.

    Sure they both have pluses and minuses but I want the freedom to chart my own course in life. I don’t look to the government for excuses and reasons to be disappointed. Not saying that is what you are doing but most Americans like their freedoms and want to see others be free.



    Cuba consulting services

  4. Follow up post #4 added on January 24, 2007 by Varsi Padayachee

    Mr. Publisher, There seems to be a prevailing mantra in our country. It is either you are with us or against us. Is that the choice.? Just because I offer patriotic, just criticism, does that mean I am anti-US and pro-communisism? By that logic, we in the US will be is very serious trouble. What I take issue with is the fact that we, in the US are ever so ready to criticize and condemn, offering no postive posture exceot th joy of bashing!
    Now, have ou lived in Cuba? I have’nt. Given that, I take a balanced view, rather than attempt to shove any position down the throats of a sovereign people. There is a sentiment in Cuba, that while Fidel is a dictator, he is our dictator. I travel fairly often to S. America to visit family, and have had the opportunity to meet with many from the Island. Yes, their view vary, but they are singular in the thought that it is theirs to resolve, not for the US to impose its will and selfish impotence on others. I went through the same US double speak when I lived in South Africa. I believe, that IF we are so gung-ho about Democratic Principles, then voices like mine should be enjoyed, and cast as being pro-an opposing point of view.
    I am a liberal, yet I do not believe in a welfare society. I do not believe in the abuse of the equal opportunity mission. So, does that make me a Republican or a right wing nut.
    As far as charting your own course, can you go to Cuba? Can you smoke Cuban cigars or can you drink the delicious Havan Club Rum (not the prostited version by Bacardi)? No you cannot. So where is your freedom?


  5. Follow up post #5 added on January 24, 2007 by viajero

    interesting discussion Varsi and Mr.Publisher

    I do applaud the initiative of Mr.Publisher to provide a forum where we can exchange ideas re. Cuba and other topics.

    Mr.Publisher, I have lived in Cuba for 25 years and currenly live in Canada.

    However, there is always one thing that baffle me and that is: if capitalism is so good, how come there’re still children going to schools without eating anything? and this is in Canada!

    I do agree that I’ve benefited of many things this system has provided it me, and it would look a bit hypocritical of my part to be criticizing the system.
    However, since I’m already paying the taxes and being a citizen of this country, I believe I have the right to criticize it….

    Another thing, how come a small, blockaded country can have a infant mortality lower than the most powerful country in the world?

    Speaking of democracy, I believe we should give the right to born before speaking of free elections and so forth… not to mention what good any free election has done to any country like Chili in the 70’s when CIA helped ousting them….
    so much for freedom of speech, when every single newspaper in the Western world are owned by private corporations and do reflect their views, however liberal they want to be…

    And I’d like to see how the US government would react if North Korea or Cuba start airing tv shows to interfere with ABC and CBS in order to bring their truth….


  6. Follow up post #6 added on January 24, 2007 by Varsi Padayachee

    Mr. Viajero, Just to add to your thought patteren, Cuba also has a higher lieracy rate than the US, free medical services, free education. Respective to our media, Do we have the Freedom of the Press? The media in the US has lost its moral compass, parading as nothing more than bloated prima donnas.
    Bush used a compliant media to sell us the Iraq War!
    Bush used a lapdog media to misrepresent the state of Iraq!
    Bush uses a pliable media to micharacterize the war on Terror
    Bush used the media to cover up and justify the rendition program
    Bush used the media to OUT a CIA agent
    How more despicable can this get!


  7. Follow up post #7 added on January 24, 2007 by MiamiCuban

    A little more to add here… (and please correct me if things have changed in recent months)....Cuba’s retirement age is 55, women have 100% paid maternity leave for six months and at 50% from 7 months to a year, children are given breakfast and lunch at school, and sports events and concerts are free.  Imagine how much more could be accomplished without an embargo.


  8. Follow up post #8 added on January 24, 2007 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Good post.  It motivated me to pose the question - Who is more capable of lifting the Embargo, George Bush or Raul Castro.

    I have started a new post here

    http://havanajournal.com/politics/entry/who-is-more-capable-of-lifting-the-us-embargo-george-bush-or-raul-castro/

    Enjoy!



    Cuba consulting services

  9. Follow up post #9 added on January 25, 2007 by Pete Chavez

    Varsi,
    I defend your patriotic position to take a “pro-an opposing point of view” however repulsive, misinformed and riddled with hatred it may be.  I even applaud your view that we bash and don’t resolve anything, your comments are the embodiment of that practice.  But I mainly defend your right to your position because it validates mine and that is that the one difference between here and your country of origin, Columbia, South Africa and definitely Cuba is that here lies HOPE in spite of all our ills, here lies hope.  Which is why you are here not there and taking it so for granted.  I am Cuban and I lived a Cuban life so your list of Cuban achievements don’t mean shit to anyone who’s lived the Cuban existence.  It’s great that I am literate to bad that in Cuba I am not allowed to read anything to my liking.  Oh I also know how to write, to bad that in Cuba if I wrote anything about Cuba remotely like you have written here about the U.S. I’d be in a concentration camp after the second paragraph.  Free medicine?  Sure! it’s great if your a paying foreigner but if you are like me (a Cuban) you’re better off going to a barber shop.  And as for free education, it’s not really education it’s free indoctrination, most things I learned about the world outside Cuba and inside, I came to find out later were all lies.  Oh, and that crack about us (Cuba) being a sovereign nation, no we don’t feel we are a sovereign people because we did not and have never voted or have ever had a say in who governs us or represents us in the world for at least 60 years (I’m including the Batista years too).  So don’t think you have such balanced views especially when you get your Cuban views from an ideal that you probably got off of a pamphlet somewhere.  You need to get off of Fantasy Island and go live in Cuba and as a Cuban, not a self indulgent foreigner with the escape hatch in the form of a passport and maybe then that’ll put some credibility behind your “balanced view” and I promise it will probably transform you.


  10. Follow up post #10 added on January 25, 2007 by Varsi Padayachee

    Mr. Pete Chavez, The country is COLOMBIA, and NOT COLUMBIA, which is in Maryland. You know poor knowledge in the wrong hands is like dynamite. Sadly, you exemplify that adage. It appears you are up to your old tricks again. When you cannot intelligently and coherently argue a position, you tend to lapse into guttral speak. Sad, because, while I might disagee with you, I do respect and will give your point of view the honest analysis. I do not indulge in lies or hatred. If you are as well educated as you claim, you will notice my writings are my points of view, providing a counter balance. I presume that I am allowed that! However, just for the record, I was not allowed to vote in South Africa, and as an Indian my family had to pay for our education, while the whites were accorded a free education. We lived in segregated neighborhoods. I grew up in a lovely part of the city called Durban. Great weather, right on the Indian Ocean. One day, a WHITE Govt. Minister drove through our neighbourhood. He was amazed at its beauty and clean laayout. This home was where my fathjer andhis siblings grew up, and so did my sister and I. A month later, we were served with an eviction notice, and the area was now a designated White neighbourhood. We were forcibly moved to a TOWNSHIP some 40 miles away. My grandmother, totally disoriented and devastated, died a moth afte our relocation. The Beatles were banned, multi-racial sports, musical events, housing and schooling was a no-no. We had to carry special Identity Books, which carried just about every piece of info about me. If I could not produce it on demand, I could be jailed. There was no free speech. Oh! any form of anti-government protect or opinion was met and dealt with swiftly, and often times with deliberate consequences. We had Robben Island. An Island of the Coast of Cape Town where escape was impossible. Very much like Alcatraz. Then we had detention laws, that allowed the Govt. to throw anyone in prison with little or no reason. Perhaps, like your facts, your knowledge past your single mindedness is no-existant at best. In the US we have the Patriot Act. This is based on the 90-detention laws we had to live under in South Africa. Even the bathrooms and park benches were segregated. Oh! there were some towns and cities where I could not visit. Oh! yes we were forced to learn a language called Afrikaans, which is a patheic mixture of English, Dutch, French an German. Reading was restricted to an approved Govt. list. Family from India were not allowed to visit.
    In those dark days of civilization, even the US, UK, and most of Europe tacitly supported our oppression.  And I should add Australia, Chile, Uraguay, Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina to that list. Only Cuba, India, Chiina and Russia supported our emancipation. There are a number of excellent books out there, perhaps Nelson Mandela’s Autobio, and Cry the Beloved country will provide you with a better and more intelligent understanding of what we went though in South Africa.
    Yes, I did not live on the Island, but what we experienced in South Africa was not off some pamphlet or fantasy Island.
    I cannot dispute your experiences, but I do suggest that before attacking another’s point of view just because it does not conform with yours.
    And finally, I am not here to compete for who had the worse experience.  However, I will suggest, most respectfully, that you acquire a better understanding of what the world is really like, sans the spew and poorly constructed arguments.


  11. Follow up post #11 added on January 25, 2007 by Pete Chavez

    Dear Varsi,
    Thankyou for the correct spelling of Colombia.  It’s was easier than I thought it would be to vet from you why you have such an appalling support of Castro and such bitter resentment and a chip on your shoulder for the country that does offer you what your first adopted country did not.  I can’t imagine why anyone would have wanted to immigrate there.  Oh that’s right I forgot, you are originally from India and I have been to India so I really know the human misery your family must have faced.  It’s unfortunate that your family made an unfortunate choice for that I am truly sorry.  But Castro’s early and continued support of anti-apartheid does not render him a good man/leader, nor does it justify his 47 year reign of terror on the people of his country.  Castro’s support of anti-apartheid only makes him an astute politician.  If he supports injustice anywhere in the world and stands up to the U.S., he keeps that David and Goliath mythology going which happens to appeal so much to those that suffer from the anti-Yankee syndrome around the world as well the fools at the U.N..  His tactics are rather successful you being the case in point.  So I feel even more compelled now to advise you to go live in Cuba as a Cuban since I see that your views on the Castro regime are unhealthily rooted in what “WHITE” people did to you and your family (don’t forget, Cuba is ruled by a white leader and a mostly all white regime).  I was traveling somewhere in Africa a couple of years ago and heard a saying that always sticks in my mind when people like yourself dismiss our human suffering in favor of a dictator that cynically uses your own human suffering in a p.r. campaign for wholey personal/professional gain.  The saying loosely translated goes: “A pig always squeals when it is being picked up off the ground but it never squeals when it is happening to the pig next to him.”  Oh and I almost forgot,  patheic is spelled pathetic, fathjer is spelled father, disagee is spelled disagree, laayout is spelled layout, moth afte is spelled month after, protect is spelled protest, no-existant is spelled non-existant, an is spelled and, Chiina is spelled China and finally I am very suspicious of guttral I am almost sure it is spelled guttural.  Do you know how to spell petty?


  12. Follow up post #12 added on January 26, 2007 by Varsi Padayachee

    Mr. Chavez. South Africa is not my adopted country. My family has been there since 1861, and were forcibly sent there by the British. Once again, you are cluless as to the historical travails of the world. When the Apartheid Govt. took over South Africa, they banned all NON-WHITE immigration into the country. I suspect from your lack of knowledge and understading of South Africa, its history and politics, you must have been one of those PRO-Apartheid fellows. I suggest brush up on your knowledge base before you spew your bile. Terribly sorry for the typos, however, my brand of ENGLISH is really the only brand of English, rather unlike your version. I was born in an area of South Africa that was far more English, in some respects, than England.
    Contrary to your PATHETIC ASSERTION, we did not suffer from HUMAN MISERY. Quite the ccontrary, my dear fellow. We were educated in the finest schools, lived extremely comfortably (and continue to do so), and perhaps rather more of an Internationalist than you will ever be. As a matter of fact my extended family was in the heart of the Anti-Apartheid struggle, which represented the desires of the majority of the population.
    As to your pig reference, are you not still squelling about Castro?

    To close this out , Yes PETTY IS SPELT PETE CHAVEZ, which is sadly synonomous with CLUELESS.


  13. Follow up post #13 added on January 27, 2007 by Pete Chavez

    Your comments continue to betray you.  Anyone that spells white in capital letters has got a serious chip on his shoulder not to mention a racist issue.  Therefore, your views never clearly come from a constructive healthy place.  Which is why you find it so easy to cry wolf, lick your wounds, woe is me, etc.., when recounting injustices you and your family have suffered.  Yet you detach yourself from the people in another country where not to diferent things like yours happen to them and you congratulate and defend the brutality of the leader/government that perpetrates this and for 47 years no less.  Please, try to get your head examined.  And as for everything else you said to try and insult me, flattery will get you nowhere. 
    Publisher, sorry that my engaging and calling this guy on his contradictory values has to end in denigration, I’ll try not to address him anymore.
    And this is the real end of this thread.


  14. Follow up post #14 added on January 27, 2007 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    It’s a good time to end this thread.

    Cuba is a controversial subject on many levels because of the variety of international interests, political ideologies and cultural backgrounds of those us drawn to the debates.

    Sometimes people get caught up in heated debates that can get personal.

    The Havana Journal will always be a place for rational, moderated discussion.

    So, on to the next one folks.



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