What Doesn’t Work in the Cuban Countryside

The private sector already leads agricultural production in many food groups. (Escambray)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Elías Amor Bravo, economist, 18 January 2024 — Communists continue to bet on the same policies as always that have shown, again and again, their failure. What is serious is that the State press does the unspeakable by trying to justify them. This is what happened with a joint exercise of control of the possession, use and legality of land and livestock, which, according to them, aims to achieve the transformation of production systems to increase food production. The experiment is carried out in 22 municipalities as part of a pilot program by the General Directorate of Land Control of the Ministry of Agriculture.

The belief that “putting order in the field guarantees greater food production,” is not only wrong but is a good example of what it means to put political and ideological decisions before productive and efficient technical decisions. Luckily, the announced “pilot program ” will be carried out in only 22 municipalities. If it were extended to the entire territory, as it seems that they intend, the famine would be fatal.

Every time the Cuban communists intervene in the agricultural production system, they end up destroying it. The first example was the so-called “land reform law” that collapsed the private farm system. Another example was the “10 million ton sugar harvest” that was never achieved. I insist, putting ideology before rational economic principles is fatal for any economy, but especially for the agricultural sector. The Cuban example is good for those who want to investigate objectively.

Because, in addition, what this experiment aims at is something that cannot be achieved with communist order and control, quite the opposite. If it is intended to increase agricultural production by promoting a decrease in the area of idle lands by improving the efficiency of those currently leased. Communist control leads to failure, because the bases of the productive system, which are the property rights of the land, are not removed.

The Vietnamese, faced with a similar scenario, had courage and launched the Doi Moi to generalize private farming property. What came next is known, a greater production of food that not only served to guarantee the food and nutritional security of the country, but also to export the surplus. The suppression of communist structures in the countryside of the Asian country caused economic agents, empowered by their property rights, and without communist controls like those that Cuba now wants to put in place in 22 municipalities, to launch mass production to increase their profits, and an end to communism in the Vietnamese countryside.

In such conditions, one would have to ask why the regime of Fidel and Raúl Castro is unable to do the same, and now they propose a reactionary return of communist inspiration to develop, they say, “an integrated work to organize local food systems.” They also announce that this experiment will be extended to all municipalities next March. We hope that before this decision is made they will be able to evaluate the failure that is going to happen, which is nothing more than a waste of time, efficiency and concentration on the technical-productive tasks that are what make production grow.

The ministry’s director of land control said that “the delivery of land in usufruct [a form of leasing] to natural and legal persons who request it is a priority, and main attention is given to young people who graduate from active military service, as a source of employment, and to those who do not have work.” And someone should remind her that the same thing has been done since he was authorized by Raúl Castro as soon as he came to power, and here are the results almost two decades later. The solution is not the delivery of land, but private property.

And of course, no one in their right mind at this point of Castroism can think that a solution to increase production is the delivery of land to the organizations, for the self-consumption productions of the workers and their families. Another example of waste and failure.

In line with strengthening control over the countryside, the director asked the relatives of land lieutenants who have died, “to update their situation in the records for which they have a period of 90 days, extendable for 90 more days, to carry out the procedure for the award of inheritance of land and agricultural assets,” while she again conveyed the fateful message that everyone expected: “the sale of land is between owners and renters is illegal.” And here we go again.

Another line that they are testing from the Ministry of Finance and Prices to increase production is contained in Resolution 303/2023, which includes tax measures for the calculation, payment and additional settlement of the Personal Income Tax, through the presentation of the affidavit for the agricultural sector. This regulation establishes a reduced tax rate of 2% for personal income tax, when the general tax rate is 5%. The difference in the percentage does not seem to have served as a stimulus for agricultural activity on the Island, which depends much more on other technical productive factors and property rights that the authorities will not modify. In fact, another threat has been the entry into force of Resolution 308/2023 of the Ministry of Finance and Prices, on the application of the tax on the idleness of agricultural and forestry lands, which requires the efficient production of the land to guarantee food for the population.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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