Opponents of reform voice concerns in the National Assembly
The truth is that the news is really not auspicious for those hoping that the economic reform measures implemented by President Raúl Castro would be strengthened, a warranted not only by the announcement that the island's economy is entering a period of contraction during the second half of the year, but especially in view of the general tone of the rhetoric heard at the National Assembly of the Popular Power's Permanent Commissions.
An emboldening of those opposing reform was observed in certain arguments advanced during the VII Congress of the Communist Party. The trend was manifest, for example, when the Party's Guideline was discussed - also appearing as Point 104 of the Conceptualisation of the Economic and Social Model of Socialist Development - prohibiting the concentration of ownership and wealth by non-State individuals or entities.
During the Party forum some voices expressed concern with how much wealth would be permitted, especially if it is the result of a personal and lawful efforts. Recently, however, the deputies did not hesitate to attack any level of non-State wealth. This is a position that, if adopted, could jeopardize the future of self-employment and the creation of cooperatives.
At the Commission on Education, Culture, Science, Technology and the Environment, the poet Alpidio Alonso, after asserting that the concentration of wealth is a current reality, stated that "we must not accept this under the model of socialism that we are proposing." (This statement and those that follow were published in the daily Granma.)
Another deputy, after also opining that the concentration of wealth and property is already evident, stated that "this issue threatens socialism, and we have no right to realize that we were wrong ten years from now."
On the same commission, expressing a similar point of view was the economist Miguel Limia, who insisted on "the need to prevent private property from becoming the organising force of society, spawning polarization and the restoration of capitalism."
On the Service Attention Commission there were several opinions voiced, especially by deputies from inland areas, who criticised what they considered "high prices," being justified by the principle of supply and demand. One deputy from the town of Manzanillo called for a re-examination of these prices, set by boteros (freelance drivers) who "take advantage of the shortcomings of State rural transport."
Therein lies the essence of the problem. The key is not to go after individual drivers, forcing them to offer lower rates, by decree. What is imperative is that the State establish an efficient transportation system in that area of eastern Cuba, thereby competing with individual drivers. In this way prices would become more affordable for ordinary citizens.
But, of course, the deputy from Manzanillo was unable to recognise such reasoning.
Another worrisome argument surfaced on the Agrifood Commission, on which more than one deputy called for the elimination of Supply & Demand Agricultural Markets, which offer higher prices, but which are invariably well-stocked. The justification cited was that they are no longer needed due to the increase in State markets with price ceilings.
Those wielding this argument forget that the famine during the "Special Period" in the 90s was so devastating, among other things, as a result of Fidel Castro’s elimination of the Free Farmers Markets in 1986. And now, after Mr. Marino Murillo has just announced the storm that is descending upon us, it would be almost suicidal to dismantle the only market that guarantees Cubans' food supply.