Socialist Cuba shows the way

Author: Arindam Chaudhury

As India rolls out intellectually dead Budgets, this tiny Latin American nation, swimming against the tide, shows the world how commitment for the downtrodden can truly make a country great

With another forgettable Budget being presented in India, let’s look at how real commitment for the downtrodden can alter a country’s economic landscape. When the capitalist West won the Cold War against the Soviet Union and eastern European nations, it became an underlined conclusion among political pundits that capitalism was the real path for success — rather than socialism, which was made to appear as a sure-shot road to economic doom.

However, this self-ratified superiority of capitalism as well as the West’s chest-thumping exercise are all but gone today. The US is grinding it out through an extended recession streak and Europe is literally struggling to keep the eurozone together. The recession in Europe and North America, which started in 2008, has become a never-ending nightmare with no chance of a revival in sight. Reports of frequent protests all across Europe with people vandalising public property tell volumes about the distorted economic model of the entire region. One such set of protests — the Occupy Wall Street movement — epitomised public outrage against crony capitalism in the US.

What worked for US President Barack Obama during that time of instability was, quite possibly, his pseudo-socialistic doctrines. These marked the beginning of a new economic era in a country once considered an unrelenting proponent of capitalism. On similar lines, the current chaos in developed economies too is leading to a transition towards a new economic pattern that is gradually reinstating the essence of socialism.

Spearheading this latent movement has been Cuba, which has shown incredible resilience against American tirade and in many spheres is much better placed than most capitalist countries across the globe. Even the US trade embargo against Cuba — which Cubans call an “economic blockade” — could not destabilise the economy. The US has continuously bullied Cuba and a good example of that is the time when America stalled the passage of a Swedish medical equipment consignment on the ground that the filters attached to the instruments were patented under US law.

America has also regularly curtailed Cuba’s transactions with various countries and corporations — whether it was to do with importing diagnostic instruments from Japan, chemicals from Italy, or X-ray machines from France. But in spite of such attempts to damage the Cuban economy, that country has discovered many avenues to bypass truant Americans. One such avenue is to enter into joint-ventures with foreign corporations. This has led to the infusion of foreign investment in Cuba, which now has tie-ups with corporations from Germany, France, Brazil, Canada and even the UK. The total project outlay from foreign collaboration in Cuba has surpassed $5 billion and is ever increasing. It involves around 60 countries in 40 sectors.

This is an incredible feat considering that Cuba has been economically isolated for decades, with few political and economic patrons. But the Cubans have managed to find a way out on their own, and they have done so with a socialistic approach. In fact, the Cubans even escaped the clutches of recession with their socialistic policies and their economy is now advancing at an astronomical rate of 9.6 per cent per annum.

Besides economic advancement, the neo-socialist model of Cuba has also refurbished the social fabric of that nation. Cuba today is one of those few nations that provide free education to all its citizens. Right from pre-school to doctoral degrees, Cuba guarantees free education to everybody — an initiative that is seen with disbelief by awestruck capitalist economies. As per the CIA’s The World Factbook, Cuba’s literacy rate, at around 99 per cent, is far better than its capitalist neighbours’ such as the US and Canada.

Likewise, healthcare too is free in Cuba. Also unlike the situation in developing countries like India, healthcare centres in Cuba are not the epicentres of filth, neglect and corruption but instead, they are state-of-the-art facilities provided at a modest cost.

World Health Organisation records show that Cuba’s life expectancy is 78 years while infant mortality rate is at 4.7 deaths per 1,000 live births. Both are way better than the scores of Western nations. This is owing to the fact that Cuba’s health infrastructure is one of the best in the world today. At a time, when capitalism is able to provide a social safety net to only a small fraction of the people, Cuba on the contrary has proved that socialism can work for the masses. In Cuba, starvation, unemployment and disease are rare phenomena.

Keeping the essence of socialism intact, Cuba charts its growth path in consultation with its workforce and its labourers. This shows its commitment for collective work. That’s trademark socialism, which has not been erased in Cuba despite the various trials and tribulations that it has had to go through. No country in the world consults its working class in framing its policy measures like Cuba does; Cuba places the interests of its working class at the highest pedestal and ergo does not rely on inhumane capitalist calculations of crony corporations.

Cuba has shown that the American way of benchmarking living conditions against profits and turnovers is a fallacy in itself, as these figures do not necessarily translate into higher standards of living. The economic policies of the erstwhile USSR and its ilk might not have been perfect but the value of socialism doesn’t drop just because Soviet Russia failed.

On the contrary, socialism can emerge even stronger with the right kind of policy frameworks in place. This has been proven by Cuba. One can only wish that India’s Finance Ministers learned some lessons from Cuba.

(The author is a management guru and honorary director of IIPM Think Tank)

http://www.dailypioneer.com/columnists/item/53518-socialist-cuba-shows-the-way.html,

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