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Millennium Post

Taking lessons from Cuba

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

However, this self-ratified superiority of capitalism is all but gone. US is grinding it out through an extended recession streak and Europe is literally struggling to keep the eurozone in one piece. Reports of frequent protests in US (remember Occupy Wall Street?) and all across Europe, with people vandalising public property, tells volumes about the distorted economic model of the entire region. Even Obama had to pull out his pseudo-socialistic doctrine to save the situation in a country that was once considered an unrelenting proponent of capitalism. In similar lines, the current chaos in developed economies too is speeding a transition towards a new economic pattern of socialism!

Spearheading this latent movement forever has been Cuba, which has shown incredible resilience against the American tirade and in many spheres is much better placed than most capitalist countries across the globe. The US trade embargo against Cuba with its entire wherewithal could not destabilise their economy. An example typifying how the United States has continuously bullied Cuba was when America stalled the passage of a Swedish medical equipment consignment on the ground that the filters attached with the instruments were patented under US law. In similar fashion, America has regularly curtailed transactions of Cuba 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, the country discovered many avenues to bypass the truant American meddling, by entering into joint ventures with foreign corporations and infusing investment in their home turf.

The tie-ups Cuba managed included corporations from Germany, France, Brazil, Canada and even UK. The total project outlay from foreign collaboration in Cuba has surpassed $5 billion and is ever increasing now, involving around 60 different countries in 40 different sectors with the total number of such projects exceeding 240! That’s an incredible feat considering they did it on their own and did it with a socialistic approach; their economy is now advancing at an astronomical rate of 9.6 per cent per annum.

There’s more. Right from pre-school to doctoral degrees, Cuba guarantees free education to everybody, an initiative that is seen with awestruck disbelief by capitalist economies. Even as per the CIA Factbook, Cuba’s literacy rate, with around 99 per cent of population being literate, is far better than its capitalist neighbours like US and Canada.

Likewise, healthcare too is free for all its citizens – and unlike the situation in developing countries like India, healthcare centres in Cuba are not the epicenters of filth, neglect and corruption, but state-of-the-art facilities provided at a modest cost. In fact, the country spends around 45 per cent of its budget on education and healthcare. WHO records show Cuba’s life expectancy as 78 years and infant mortality at 4.7 deaths per 1,000 live births – both records are way better than that of scores of Western nations. This is owing to the fact that Cuba today has one of the best states of health and medical infrastructure in the world. Today, when capitalism is able to provide a social safety net to only a small fraction of people, Cuba on the contrary has proved that socialism can work for the masses – a country where starvation, unemployment and disease are rare phenomena.

Keeping the essence of socialism intact, Cuba is the only country that charts the country’s growth path in consultation with its workforce, labourers and other local bodies. That’s trademark socialism. And now, Cuba is inspiring NATO nations like France to imbibe its model. An article by Roger Burbach, Director of the Berkeley-based Center for Studies of the Americas, showered heaps of accolades on Cuba for combating recession the socialist way... and winning it too! 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 the 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 capitalist financial figures do not necessarily translate into real standards of living or happiness levels. The economic policies of USSR and its ilk might not have been perfect but the value of socialism doesn’t sink with their downfall. To the contrary, socialism can emerge even stronger with the right kind of policy frameworks in place. This has been proven by Cuba, a country that is rising as a pied piper carrying along a new herd of nations with it. I wish our finance ministers had learnt some lessons in commitment from Cuba.

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