Tuesday, October 24, 2006

It's the economy, stupid

For the past few weeks, Cuban newspapers have been in a right old tizz over an issue that rarely gets an airing in the tightly controlled media: endemic corruption in workplaces across the island.

From cafes and restaurants to building enterprises and hospitals, otherwise ordinary Cubans have been caught out rorting supplies, over-charging customers and providing pretty shoddy service.

Given that 99 per cent of the Cuban economy is State-owned, this is not what you’d call a terrific result.

But in fact, there is nothing new here.

This type of scamming has been a feature of Cuban life for nearly half a century. Not because Cubans are particularly prone to corrupt practices but because this is the only way to make ends meet in Fidel Castro’s socialist paradise.

You need to resolver to survive.

Anyway, this latest anti-corruption campaign by the regime has been run largely through the pages of Juventud Rebelde, the newspaper of the Union of Communist Youth.

Over the past three weeks, the paper has highlighted endless examples of poor service, low-level corrupt dealings and general scamming across Cuba, with much lecturing about the need to maintain discipline in workplaces and for workers to follow the revolutionary example of the Comandante en Jefe.

The latest instalment appears in the Sunday edition of the paper and it’s hilarious.

The paper devotes at least a couple of thousand words to the topic of how to improve what it describes as the “socialist economy”. Economists are interviewed at length. And political scientists. And even philosophers. And they all have plenty to say about the need to put a stop to these terrible pilfering and lack of service.

But no one mentions the obvious: it’s not the workers’ fault. It’s the fact that centrally-controlled, Soviet style socialist economies do not work. Whether in Russia or Hungary or China. Or in Cuba.

It’s that simple, folk. No amount of fine tuning will help.


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