By Dagoberto Valdés
There can be no economic development without freedoms and human rights. As we gather statements from Cuban men and women who are trying to develop their private initiative through their own small businesses—those that have been included in the list of medieval trades that the Cuban government, in a false overture, has approved as a liberalization of work—they are faced with endless bureaucratic obstacles and State protectionism for their inefficient enterprises or useless services so that no one can compete with these fossils of bureaucratic totalitarianism.
The acquisition of permits and the following of procedures take each Cuban who takes on the risk of enterprise on a goose chase from office to office. To mention only a few of these offices, if you wish to build a shack for your paladar—home-cooking and home-based restaurant,—for example, you will need to visit Urban Planning, the Popular Municipal Power Administration Council, the Directive Offices of Municipal Public Health, the National Taxing Office (ONAT) and others. In each of these offices, you must be subjected not only to the contempt of bureaucracy, but also to the obstacles that have been implemented so that no one person is able to earn too much, or acquire titles to more than one property, accumulate properties or money, or have the opportunity to personal progress above the leveling standards of true Socialism. In other words, you are allowed to pursue a minimum level of survival under State dependence and through the mental and daily work that are indispensable for mere survival.
Another insurmountable obstacle is the government’s protectionism over any service, business or enterprise, all of which are the sole property of the State, as to eliminate possible, potential and incipient competition from the self-employed, or the small, private entrepreneurs. A home-based restaurant (paladar) cannot be opened within two blocks from a State cafeteria because it would entail competition against the State-owned business. And this, of course, never takes into account the fact that the state-owned cafeteria hardly ever has anything to sell. Minister Murillo has clearly stated at the Cuban National Assembly that State enterprises should not fear competition from private businesses, as these are but mere “rustic shacks”. And, were they to progress, there are still economic and social guidelines that reaffirm that national economy is in the hands of the State, and that the accumulation of capital will not be allowed, nor will it be allowed to go beyond any mechanism of State planning even if the enterprises in question are not State-owned. Not even water can ever be as clear as this.
Cuba will never step back from the edge of the cliff with only “rustic shacks”. Enterprises that are not subjected to competition can only produce misery and bad service. These supposed overtures from the government, without the element of recognition of private and protected property, are not real overtures. Work and bureaucracy are natural antonyms. And economy and liberty are inseparable.
Therefore, we all know where this is heading. Or, better yet, where it is not heading.
But, being that totalitarianism does not allow for reforms, who knows!
January 20 2011