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 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 and the entire Western chest-thumping exercise that existed during those times and even the succeeding decades are all but gone. United States is grinding it out through an extended recession streak and Europe is literally struggling to keep the eurozone in one piece, with the entire eurozone on the verge of collapsing like a broken jigsaw puzzle. The recession in Europe and North America, which started in 2008, is like a never-ending nightmare with no sight of revival whatsoever! Reports of frequent protests all across Europe with people ransacking and vandalizing public property tell volumes about the distorted economic model of the entire region. One such set of protests – the Occupy Wall Street movement – epitomized the public outrage against the capitalistic style of governance in the United States. What worked for Barack Obama during these times of instability, were perhaps his pseudo-socialistic doctrines, which marked the beginning of a new economic era in a country that was once considered an unrelenting proponent of and for capitalism. In similar lines, the current chaos in developed economies too is speeding a transition towards a new economic pattern... a pattern that is gradually reinstating the very essence of socialism once more!
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 – which the Cubans prefer to call an “economic blockade” – with its entire wherewithal could not destabilize 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 to distort and damage the Cuban economy, 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 that Cuba has been economically isolated by the United States for decades now, with very few political and economic patronages worth mentioning. They did it on their own and did it with a socialistic approach! They escaped the clutches of recession, which shaped the misery of most Western nations, with their committed socialistic bent; 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 also refurbished the social fabric of the nation. It’s 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 awestruck disbelief by the huddle of 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 centers 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, which itself speaks more than anything else. WHO records show Cuba’s life expectancy as 78 years and infant mortality at 4.7 deaths per 1000 live births – both records are way better off than 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. This showcases its commitment for collective work. That’s trademark socialism, which did not get erased in Cuba despite the various trials and tribulations that it had to go through. And now, Cuba is inspiring NATO nations like France to imbibe its model; this is a remarkable shift from their capitalist background. Liberals among American scholars are admitting the same.
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!
- 28 February 2013 |
- Arindam on Indian Economy