14ymedio, Elías Amor Bravo, Economist, June 27, 2020 – Machado Ventura, Second Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba, is relentless. His call for Cuban farmers to cultivate all the land is repeated over and over in the pages of the official Communist newspaper, Granma, which has carried this message for weeks and months.
“The whole land must be productive,” Machado Ventura said in Holguín, accompanied by Valdés Mesa, the First Vice President of the Republic, recognizing the contribution of the credit and services cooperatives (CCS) in agricultural production.
This is one more chapter in the episode of desperation on the part of the Cuban authorities to make food production reach the whole population, and thus avoid the imports for which they can’t pay since they don’t have hard currency, and to remove the possibility of a food crisis that the World Food Program of the United Nations has anticipated for Cuba in a recent report, which has been noted in this blog.
Machado’s idea of making the whole land productive has a flip side, showing the harsh and harmful reality of the Cuban countryside: the land isn’t fully used at 100% of its capacity. Nor are the rest of the resources and production factors of the Cuban economy used, and the needed capital isn’t expected.
Machado should ask himself why the Cuban economy doesn’t take full advantage of the resources it has, including the talent, entrepreneurial spirit, assumption of risks and innovation, and he should conclude that if this isn’t happening, as it is in most countries in the world, it’s because the economic and social system imposed by the Communist Regime doesn’t allow it. There is no other possible explanation. Harangues won’t do it.
Recent history shows us that when a communist country gets rid of ideological pressures that prevent it from optimizing the use of productive resources, it leaps into development, like what occurred with Vietnam and the reforms of Doi Moi or the countries of Eastern Europe, where a powerful modernization took place once the chains that tied them to the Iron Curtain were broken.
There is no alternative for having an economy function at 100% other than putting resources at the disposition of the productive process efficiently. And thus, Machado ought to listen to, not direct or control, what the National Association of Small Farmers tells him, along with other organizations of independent farmers, who can explain to him why and how to increase food production in Cuba, by cultivating all the land.
And Machado has to stop, once and for all, asking for the impossible.
If he really wants to cultivate all the land, he has to bet on formulas other than those announced in the Granma article.
Agricultural production can’t be increased with the so-called “State productive poles”; this collectivist formula controlled by the State is a failure. The Cuban agricultural sector must have an open road to allow the cooperatives of agricultural production and the CCS to deploy their plans with total autonomy and freedom, depending only on the democratic and free decisions of their members, as happens in Spain, where the cooperative sector is playing a fundamental role in the present crisis provoked by Covid-19, as it always has in moments of economic difficulties.
Also, forget State enterprises, because their results are well known in Cuban agriculture. The lack of incentives and stimuli prevents the land from being prepared, and precisely-determined fixed work is falsely assumed to give results for the Cuban farmer.
And above all, a new legal system must be given to the farmers, so they can have autonomy and freedom to buy supplies, pesticides, tractors and all types of equipment with the resources generated, not mandated by the State.
The State shouldn’t be the unique “client” for Cuban farmers. The only client should be the consumer, who has to have freedom of choice to consume and be ready to pay, and not bother again with the regulated canasta [the basket of rationed basic goods].
Thus, Machado Ventura’s “request” of the State for increases will only create problems for the farmers, and later there will be defaults, terrible wholesale distribution by Acopio [State Procurement and Distribution] and all the evils derived from the State’s intervention in the economy.
Corollary: Cuban agriculture and livestock breeding should be in the hands of private enterprise, as in China and Vietnam, and other alternatives must be discarded because they have no future. And the example is more than evident.
A warning: What Machado Ventura calls “technocratic problems,” referring to the financial matters of the banks with the farmers, is not going to be solved with harangues. Because really, if the farmers need credit to develop their fields, the banks should be in a condition to help them, as they are in other countries. And credit shouldn’t be granted by political and ideological criteria, but with technical methods and efficiency, because it could be a potent stimulus not only for agriculture but also for the development of the Cuban financial system, which needs it. Certainly the term “technocratic problems” cited by Machado Ventura is terrifying.
Lastly, forget about stopgap solutions like the programs of municipal supply, if you want to feed the whole population. These programs end up giving food to people on three or four blocks in the large cities, but in no way can they meet growing needs. It’s not possible for them, by function and scale.
On the contrary, the solution lies in privatizing Cuban agriculture, increasing parcel size, promoting the merger of campesinos’ land without cooperatives, facilitating free choice for providers and buyers and giving the farmers what they want to plant and harvest. Commercial economic relations and private property rights must be extended to the farmers as soon as possible. It’s obvious that leasing the land doesn’t help. Repetitive harangues are exhausting and draining. And what is worse, they lead nowhere.
Translated by Regina Anavy
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