Article 119 opens up a prickly possibility: transmitting the country's assets to future owners
From 16 - 19 April, 2016 the VII Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) was held. 995 anonymous delegates (their names and positions have not been published) worked on four committees.
The first committee worked to define the nature of "our" socialism.
The second committee was in charge of the country's vision, with a view of 2030, without producing an answer to the most important question facing Cubans: when will the Period” end?
The third committee analyzed the status of the Guidelines, but a list has not been published of the 21% that have, purportedly, already been implemented, nor has the new version of the Guidelines agreed to at the conference.
The fourth committee was charged with developing a plan to prevent the dismantling of the PCC.
After the Congress, the Government reduced the price of some foods. In this way, two average wages in a family of four suffice to cover 25% of the basic needs of a family of four, which marks a 5% increase compared to 2014. More hurdles affecting the self-employed were also thrown up, and the prospect of the direct sale of coffee and other products to the US was rejected.
With the people distracted by the new prices, the PCC published its vision of the development strategy for 2030. In my view, the most important change is the recognition of the right to property for the different social entities. Since the '60s the Constitution and laws have prohibited private ownership in the national economy. This is going to change.
Article 119 of the "Conceptualization of the Cuban Social and Economic Model of Socialist Development" is critical to understanding the future of Cuba. This article sets down the legal bases to transmit the country's resources to its future owners. It is true that the document prohibits privatization, but the "Conceptualization ..." does not create mechanisms to control the transparency of the State's decisions, and I see nothing to prevent the transfer of goods to the elites of the PCC and State Security forces, as happened in the countries of Eastern Europe and Russia.
According to this article, property will be divided as follows:
- Socialist state property and that of cooperatives, without mechanisms of public control over their accounts or performance.
- Mixed ownership: already in the hands of business groups of the Ministry of the Armed Forces (MINFAR), or future companies formed by entrepreneurs from countries that have recently forgiven huge Cuban debts. Certain officials will assign them contracts, devoid of any tender processes, and that will probably be exclusive, or allow for limited competition.
- Private property: permitted only if it satisfies a (poorly defined) "social objective." It is subject to time constraints and other legal conditions. The concentration of wealth is also prohibited, without defining what exactly this means.
- The property of mass organizations: the PCC, the Union of Young Communists (UJC) and other government organizations (there are no others) have at their disposal properties in the prime locations of every city, as well as transport, communication and media resources; while the Workers' Central Union of Cuba (CTC) has properties at every workplace. Henceforth there will be a legal basis enabling these organizations to own these resources.
It is important to note that according to the "Conceptualization ..." the State is in charge of overseeing the constitution, dissolution, liquidation and restructuring of legal entities and all forms of property, defining their scopes of action and main activities. That is, private property will be so only as long as the State permits it. And the lack of mechanisms that allow individuals or companies to appeal to an independent judge in the event their rights are violated by the State means that few will invest with a view to long-term development.
All this suggests that the trend in Cuba will be towards the first scenario, in accordance with a study previously presented in this newspaper.
The PCC Congress and its vision for the future of Cuba, expressed in its most recent documents, make it clear that these decisions by the PCC will become catalysts exacerbating current demographic trends, which augur a significant loss of population acceleration the country's ageing.
If we do not something significant enough to entice young people to return to and raise families in Cuba, so that these demographic trends can be reversed (a study must be conducted to determine what that might be), we will be faced with the beginning of the end of the Cuban nation.
More details on the demographic trends are available here. I will breathe a sigh of relief if I am proven wrong.