From Generals to Managers, Those Who Are Allowed to Create SMEs in Cuba

The migration from olive-green uniforms to suits and ties has left us with the most succulent sectors of the national economy in the hands of the military. (ACN)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, Havana, 28 July 2020 — For more than two decades, when the exercise of private work was authorized in Cuba, one of the most repeated demands by entrepreneurs has been to create medium and small companies. The economy had to hit rock bottom for the authorities to promote so-called SMEs*, although the requirements to found them have not yet be clarified.

What will the process be like to register a small or medium business? Will the entities of the state sector responsible for this structure issue a public tender? Will political filters be applied to select new entrepreneurs? Will there be a transparent record of those awards? There are so many questions and such negative past experiences that only the facts can dispel or confirm current fears.

In the last quarter century on this Island we have seen the transmutation of generals into managers. The migration from olive-green uniforms to suits and ties has left us with the most succulent sectors of the national economy, telecommunications and foreign trade, in the hands of the military that is not accountable nor accepts criticism. Why should SMEs behave differently?

Like the “Sandinista piñata” in Nicaragua, which promoted the distribution of properties and the appropriation of companies and goods, among those closest to Daniel Ortega, in Cuba we have experienced the awarding of the most appetizing portions of the national pie to those closest to the family clan that controls the Island, to the most ideologically faithful and to those who, in turn, can use these spaces to maintain and prolong vigilance over society.

I find it hard to imagine ‘Yusimí Pérez’ or ‘Yantiel López’ — to put two hypothetical but possible names of the generation to which I belong — going to register a small company in the Registry, and their proposal to create a family footwear industry or a plant manufacturing animal feed being accepted without, in the process, not having to demonstrate their full adherence to the system, the Party and its leaders.

Although Miguel Díaz-Canel recently insisted that “we cannot continue doing the same in the field of the economy,” it is highly unlikely that this statement includes eliminating the pro forma segregation of thinking that continues to divide the economic reality of this country. It is quite probable that the first SMEs to be authorized will be in the hands of ex-officials, ex-colonels or people in whose family tree some power-related chromosomes frolic.

In a different case, if the vocation to save the country and revive the economy outweighed the narrow-mindedness of partisanship, it would be a whole different ballgame (or, as the Cuban expression would have it, ‘another rooster would crow’). Companies would be in the hands of those who could make a success of them, create jobs and innovate. Among those entrepreneurs there could be liberals, social democrats, anti-Castroites and anarchists… It would not be necessary to fake loyalty or applaud to be prosperous. But the latter would be like asking Castroism to shoot itself in the temple and to recognize that, after more than six decades of failed experiments, only a private sector without ideological reins can move the economy forward.

*SMEs = Small and medium-sized enterprises


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