Thursday, December 24, 2009

Passive Resistance: Fernando Ravsberg - The best thing (about Cuba) that I've read (in Spanish) this week (V)

Pop quiz for Christmas: Match each of the following statements with their original authors?

1. "From each according to their ability, to each according to their need."
2. "From each according to their ability, to each according to their work."
3. "El que parte y reparte coge la mayor (y mejor) parte."
4. "El ojo del amo engorda el caballo."
5. "Unfortunately, in Cuban state enterprises the employees only pretend to work, but of course that's because the government only pretends to pay them."

a. Fulano de Tal.
b. Carlos Marx.
c. Pepito.
d. The apostle Paul.
e. Liborio.

Answer key at the end of this post.


As a Christmas present, Fernando Ravsberg of BBC gives us a new entry in his blog, "Cartas desde Cuba."

Entitled, "Passive Resistance," the post chronicles the potential impacts of the Cuban National Assembly's recent unanimous vote (who knew?) to force all state enterprises to begin self-financing over the next year.  This means enterprises turning a profit will be allowed to keep a greater portion of their profits, which are now used to prop up enterprises that chronically operate at a loss.

The above pop quiz is a rough reflection of some of the great Cuban economic aphorisms that raced through my mind as I read Ravsberg's perceptive words; one-liners that I have heard from the island's residents over the years to sarcastically describe (con uso agudo del choteo) the often mysterious ways they make their pan de cada dia (daily bread).

If you read Spanish, go directly to Ravsberg's post.  For a quick translation of some of his gems keep reading:

"The government has just decentralized its finances, with the possible result that inefficient enterprises unable to self-finance could disappear...

"The money disappears through subsidizing inefficient and unprofitable enterprises to stave off their going bankrupt.  These subsidized enterprises live like parasites.  They contribute little or nothing to the bottom line and then take all the money they need to keep producing...losses.

"An employee of a giant, totally inefficient factory once told me that they also routinely 'inflate' their costs in order to receive more subsidies.  In any case, in such 'planned economies' the costs do not seem to be too important.

"For decades, Cubans drank their coffee mixed with 'chícharos' in order to save money.  That is until one fine day when someone looked at the real costs involved and discovered that these 'chícharos' were actually more expensive to produce than is the coffee bean.

"A Cuban worker does not live solely from his or her salary.  A worker's income is typically complemented with whatever he or she can 'liberate' from the job and 'resell' on the black market.

"In order to prevent these laid off workers from turning to petty crime to survive it is essential that the economic model be opened up to allow them to create new kinds of work spaces and forms of employment.

"The President himself recognized that one of the most difficult problems the country confronts is 'the passive resistance of the intermediate cadres'."

Talk about "weapons of the weak"...

(Answer key: 1d, 2b, 3e, 4a, and 5c.)

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