Thu Feb 8th, 2007 at 03:51:17 PM EST
Cuba is again playing host to a meeting of economists from all over the world. The 9th International Meeting of Economists on Globalization and Problems of Development concludes tomorrow after deliberations which began on Monday (February 5th).
According to news reports (Sp.), upwards of 1,400 participants from some 49 countries and 27 international organizations, including 16 professional organizations had registered. Participants include, among others, Andrés Solimano from the Economic Commission of Latin America and the Caribbean and Humberto López from the World Bank.
Please join me for a brief diary on this significant event and what Cuban economists (in particular) are debating concerning the future course of their country.
There has been much speculation in the US and elsewhere about the path that Cuba will take once leader Fidel Castro passes away. This topic is inevitably present among Cubans participating in this week's international meeting of economists in Havana. The Wall Street Journal provides some detail about what Cubans are considering:
Together, the Cuban economists' proposals would cut down on state interference in businesses and aim to wring more productivity out of the island nation's economy. Among the steps under discussion: decentralizing control, expanding the power of managers at privately owned agricultural cooperatives, extending private ownership to other sectors, boosting investment in infrastructure and increasing incentives to workers.
The WSJ goes on to quote Pedro Monreal, a senior professor at the University of Havana's Center for Research on the International Economy:
"We are in the midst of a process of debate, which is cautious and controlled, but is happening for the first time in many years,"
The massive conference touches, of course, on other topics stretching from regional integration to energy; from the fight against poverty to the role of women in the economy. The list (Sp.)is daunting. Aside from the participation (mentioned in my introduction) of economists from the World Bank and ECLAC, participants were expected from the International Monetary Fund, the Inter-American Development Bank and Mercosur.
Given the dearth of information about the conference (plus the fact that it has not yet concluded), there isn't much I can report about for the time being. Nevertheless, in addition to the WSJ article cited above, there is an interesting report about discussions among Cuban economists concerning what needs to be done to improve Cuba's ailing economy. Marc Frank, reporting for Reuters (Note: I could find no internet link... sorry! Here are the stats for those interested - Editing conducted by Xavier Briand; email@example.com; +537 833-3145) Keywords: CUBA REFORM) cites conference participant Evelio Vilarino, a China expert,
"There is consensus on our goals: more popular participation, the country's development and a better material and spiritual life. Where there is no consensus is on how best to achieve that."
It has been reported that Fidel Castro's brother and successor Raul Castro has expressed frustration at the Cuban bureacracy and has urged greater critique of the current system aimed at seeking out fresh solutions. In particular, solutions need to address problems like declining food production. Among the solutions proposed are some degree of decentralization of the Cuban economy. Reporter Marc Frank cites Cuban economist and agriculture expert Amando Nova as saying that the agricultural reforms of the early nineties didn't achieve expected results:
"We need farmers to participate more in production and price decisions, to be able to purchase inputs and in general enjoy more autonomy from the state," said Nova, who is involved in a report on agriculture commissioned by the government.
Similar reports are being prepared on other sectors of the economy where the state dictates most output and prices in exchange for inputs and credits.
Many experts view Raul Castro, 75, as more pragmatic than his brother and believe he could steer Cuba's 90 percent state-run economy toward one that resembles the more open Chinese model.
Even Cuban socialist property relations are being examined closely (but apparently not questioned). While many economists believe Cuba will follow China's path towards limited or controlled capitalism under the guidance of the Communist Party, Luis Marcelo Yera of the National Economic Research Institute cautions against adoption of the Chinese model as a blue-print.
According to Marc Frank, Marcelo Yera was participating in a conference panel aimed at looking into socialist property relations:
"Adapt, don't adopt -- we can adapt the best experiences but not adopt another's model," he said. Marcelo said the panel was "looking at better defining property under socialism ... because experience has demonstrated it has many problems functioning."
Another economist cited by Frank was Osvaldo Martinez, Head of parliament's economic commission, who stated to Reuters:
"We are not talking about the Chinese model, but a Cuban model, the best way forward given Cuba's possibilities, realities, resources and problems,"
Post Script by Maracatu - I hate to diary and run but I must give a three hour class tonight. I shall return as soon as possible to partake in whatever discussion takes place. This is cross posted at Daily Kos as well.