Update November 29, 2012: As predicted in my blog entry below, the Castros have now implemented income tax to take back the money that their new entrepreneurs are earning...
National Post Today
From April 20, 2011
I've been reviewing the US and Canadian reportage on the 6th Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba. And it get's worse the further one is from Miami.They (the media) are talking about more opportunities, leadership transition, right to sell homes and cars, free markets, some are even saying that the ration books are being eliminated and bringing in young people.
What all these stories miss is that every single change that is being committed to has one collective purpose; to sustain the status quo.
The Castros haven't gone soft, but they know that their economy is a disaster and that the only thing that keeps millions of people from starving is the black market (which of course doesn't pay taxes to sustain the bureaucracy and politburo). People haven't lived on their "public-sector" jobs since at least 1994 - every family has survived on the black market and the pittance they have gotten paid is of no account. So they are making changes to reduce the money they waste in feeding people with ration books and to dip their beak into the work that people do on the side to actually feed themselves.
Here are some of the big truths:
THEY ARE NOT CREATING PRIVATE JOBS
They are cutting payroll. People that now are getting a stipend will no longer get one. But this is no big deal because no one lived on their stipend anyway, but on their black market activity. NOW their black market activity will be reported on and taxed.
Generating entrepreneurism? In the form we know this, where someone puts a sign up and sells bobble-head Blue Jays or cuts hair - is impossible in Cuba. There are no customers, no one has extra money.
The government will do what they have done with Casas and Paladares - heavily tax them.
The good news is that, by being fired from their jobs, Cubans will have another 40 hours/week to hustle, buy/sell/trade (but most likely 100% of this extra income will be taxed).
THE OLD FARTS WILL NOT GO QUIETLY
Cuba is run by 80 year olds and will continue to be run by 80 year olds. As evidence, the Castros' appointment of 80 year old Jose Ramon Machado as Raul's successor. (Lest we forget, they had a couple of terrific young guys in Felipe Perez Rogue and Carlos Lage - but they were deemed not communist enough and were fired).
RIGHT TO SELL HOMES AND CARS
People have traditionally earned the right to buy cars through exceptional service to the Revolucion - maybe shooting peasants in Angola. And, on return to Cuba, they have sold or rented these cars to people who can afford them - illegal taxis. People who have nice assigned homes are known to rent them out to people with more money. So long as the CDR doesn't find out it's cool.
Raul and Jose Ramon both get another ten years. They will be ninety. Will they remember that their terms are up?
MORE OPPORTUNITIES FOR BLACKS, INDIO/SPANISH, WOMEN
Sure. The Spanish in Cuba have been enormously fair in promoting equality to all. But, as in the farm yard, pigs are more equal than others. we will see blacks given equal opportunity in getting tourist jobs, and real incomes, when pigs fly.
Cuba is one big lie. Old people lie because they have always had to to survive. Young people lie because it's the only thing they know. It will not be different as long as a single person over sixty, who grew up with Fidel, is in a position of control.
People seem to believe what Raul Castro is saying about making nice with the USA. After all, he's the kinder, gentler one given to promises of a cell phone in every pocket if not a chicken in every pot. Certainly the prospect that he and Obama will be bosum buddies and Cubans will be watching Survival instead of living it is an attractive one.
Brian Lloyd French
I am a great admirer of the strength and talents of Cuban people and will share some of my experiences here.