The voice of economists

The abundant publishing production on economy and finances presented at the recent Cuba 2014 International Book Fair confirmed the growing attention being given to national economic thinking.

The Cuba 2014 International Book Fair offered its halls to the presentation of a significant amount of books on economy.

The economic transformations undertaken by Cuba have lent weight to a new profile in the country’s publishing production, judging by the publications presented at the Cuba 2014 International Book Fair, held in Havana February 13-23 and which later travelled throughout the country. With a critical focus, the economists are generating an increasingly vaster work, as an explicit contribution to the changes and the development of the economic culture society needs.

One of the books that awoke the most interest is brought out by the Centre for Studies on the Cuban Economy (CEEC). “Cuba: la ruta necesaria del cambio económico” (Cuba: the necessary course of economic change), offers a compilation of essays written by economists and collaborators of that institution of the University of Havana, under the label of Ciencias Sociales publishers.

Faithful to the usual challenge of the CEEC of investigating and assessing the most complex events of the immediate present, the 11 articles compiled by the economists and academicians Omar Everleny Pérez and Ricardo Torres “show from diverse analytical perspectives the contradictions and dilemmas Cuba is facing at present, immerse in a gradual process of applying complex political measures to update its economic model,” Antonio Romero commented in the book’s prologue.

Curiously, the presentation of the book was made by the former economy minister, José Luis Rodríguez, whose work not long ago was permanently under the spotlight of the CEEC researchers. When assessing the publication in the Central Library of the University of Havana – one of the collateral halls of the central venue of the Book Fair in the Cabaña Fortress – Rodríguez praised the medullar and novel substrate of this work.

The current publishing production is taking place at a time when the government authorities are showing an evident interest in the academic thinking of national economists. The director of the CEED, Humberto Blanco, in the most recent edition of the magazine El Economista de Cuba recognised the increasing interaction between the government leadership of the economy and the academic institutions.

In his opinion, these ties are at “an important stage,” though he considers they can still be perfected. “But it is undeniable that we are being heard and we are feeling our presence in the changes being undertaken.” The growing publishing production has been added to the direct participation of these economists in government commissions in charge of implementing the Economic Policy Guidelines approved in 2011.

The intentions behind this course are announced in the title of a book by another researcher from the CEED, Camila Piñeiro Harnecker: “Repensando el socialism cubano. Propuestas para una economía democrática y cooperativa ” (Rethinking Cuban socialism. Proposals for a democratic and cooperative economy), jointly published by the Juan Marinello Cuban Institute of Cultural Studies and Ruth Casa publishers.

Presented by academician and essayist Fernando Martínez Heredia in the Social Sciences Colloquium, held during the Book Fair, also at the University of Havana, the text supports, according to the author, the need to “liberalise the economy toward a greater space for the private sector and the market, but we must also rethink the socioeconomic context as a whole and conceive ways of organising the work to form the type of persons we need, guided by values of equality and solidarity, in the construction of a different society.”

Also from the CEEC, Armando Nova makes an encompassing and polemical analysis in “El modelo agrícola y los Lineamientos de la Política Económica y Social en Cuba” (The agricultural model and the Economic and Social Policy Guidelines in Cuba). Brought out by Ciencias Sociales publishers, this book considers the numerous measures undertaken in the agricultural sector since 2007 and the problems that hinder them despite being a direction prioritised by the government, which has defined food production as a matter of national security.

Some of the factors that Nova critically assesses include the obstacles that prevent fully carrying out the forms of private and cooperative ownership in the countryside, the ongoing conflicts being faced by marketing and the market and the lack of a systemic focus in the conception and implementation of the measures in agriculture.

To promote an economic culture in a society immersed in radical changes – they involve and announce new practices and concepts in terms of ownership and basic policies, like the monetary -, “La Guía del Cuentapropista” (Guide of the Self-employed) was one of the novelties of the past Fair. By María Cristina Sevilla, master in business management of the Citmatel enterprise and professor of economy of the University of Havana, the book, published in digital format, is designed for a non-state sector in frank expansion in the Cuban economy.

The majority of private workers (self-employed persons), who already amount to some 447,000, lack experience or elemental knowledge about accounting and commerce to manage their businesses. However, they are facing an increasingly more competitive landscape, to the extent that the government encourages and expands the non-state sector, also with the introduction of cooperative forms in commercial, industrial and services spheres where they did not exist.

“La Guía del Cuentapropista” is one of the multiple attempts to cover the evident professional voids of these autonomous workers by offering them tools for economic management, accounting and tax management. In the opinion of Sevilla, this sector suffers from “poor awareness” and lack of knowledge about accounting. Another weakness she observes is the empirical commercial techniques. “There is a pressing need for knowledge and the application of marketing.”

The International Book Fair also served as the scenario for the launching of other publications, like “Breves reflexiones sobre la actualidad económica y social” (Brief reflections on economic and social current events), by researcher on labour issues Rafael Alhama Belamaric, and “Finanzas internacionales y crisis global” (International finances and global crisis), by the former president of the Central Bank of Cuba, Francisco Soberón Valdés, as well as for the presentation of several specialised magazines.

It also opened the doors to a debate about the world economy, with a panel of prestigious economists, who redirected their look at the impact of the foreign markets on the Cuban economy, from the point of view of the current trend of the prices for export and import products as well as the effect derived from the economic evolution in Cuba’s important foreign partners: China, Venezuela and Spain.

The accentuated attendance to the book presentations and the debate backed the authors and researchers, and also confirmed the appetite for knowledge being awoken in society to the extent that the transformations become deeper and change for everyone the rules of the game in the economic sphere. (2014)


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