23 October, 2017

Cuban & Neoliberal Economic Development Models In The Era Of Dependency On Foreign Capital

By Siri Gamage

Dr. Siri Gamage

Dr. Siri Gamage

Recent articles in Colombo Telegraph about Fidel Castro, his legacy and the left have generated an interesting dialogue that has ramifications for Sri Lanka and indeed the political, economic, cultural and intellectual trends in the global south. While it is not for me to comment at length on Fidel and his legacy, in this article I draw your attention to several key points.

The Cuban model in social, cultural-educational terms have some merits. However, I am uncertain about its economic and political merits. I am aware of the way basic necessities such as health and education are delivered to the citizens without asking them to purchase medicine, pay for doctors etc. These services are provided by the state. In fact Cuban medicos, nurses etc provide similar services in friendly countries with a service ethos rather than a profit making intent e.g. Timor Leste. A colleague of mine has successfully applied a Cuban adult education model in Australian Aboriginal communities to enhance adult literacy levels. There may be other admirable aspects of social service delivery in Cuba based on the ideal of socialism, equity and social justice. In economic terms, the Cuban model is different from the globally dominant neoliberal, free market development model adopted by many developing countries in the global South. For instance, I do not believe that Cuba invites foreign corporations and capital to its shores for direct foreign investment (DFI). Likewise, I do not think it invites foreign education providers to provide education as a marketable commodity to local youths. Unlike Sri Lanka, Philippines, or Bangladesh, I do not think that Cuba sends thousands of married and unmarried women to countries of the Middle East and elsewhere to work as domestic workers under trying conditions facing multiple abuses by the employers. Those who fled Cuba to Florida represent a different breed of Cubans who admire the American system. The Cuban model is different from the economic development model adopted by countries like Sri Lanka, India, Thailand, Singapore, and Vietnam. Politically, the Cuban model poses some difficulties in terms of civic and political freedoms. Such problems exist even in powerful countries like Russia and China or for that matter in Vietnam ruled by Communist parties.

If you ask a Sri Lanka on the street whether he or she likes the Cuban, Chinese, Russian, Vietnam model or the Euro-American model, we all know what the answer would be? You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to understand what the average person wants. It includes basic needs, freedoms, a just society and corruption free small government, a safe nation and country to belong to, and peace. Thus, the need today is to examine these different models and their merits rather than theorise about Castro and his legacy at length (though this can be a useful intellectual exercise) if we are to derive lessons for today’s problems in economics, state and politics, sociology and culture fields.

In the contemporary era, States cannot survive on their own. They need taxes to generate income, which in turn are used to provide services while running the governments. Developing countries like Sri Lanka seek foreign capital, know how, direct investments, investors etc. for various infrastructure projects, industrial and manufacturing ventures, service provision, and even knowledge production partly due to the lack of tax income and partly for reasons of colonial dependency. They also obtain multi billion dollar loans from multilateral agencies for various projects. The hope is that such projects and investments will yield results that benefit the population in the long run, remove any dependencies and be able to stand on their foot independently while safeguarding the sovereignty, national identity, culture and values. However, by looking at the predicament of countries that follow the neoliberal, free market private capital driven Euro-American, the Chinese, Vietnam, or Russian model is that they have become more indebted to the world, more corrupt, and in many cases the states have become anti democratic.

To satisfy the needs and demands of the multinational corporations from the so called free world of the America and Europe or the state affiliated companies of China, and Russia, governments in the global South have been compelled to become authoritarian or semi authoritarian. We have first hand experience of such a situation in the not too distant past. Whether fulfilling the needs of foreign companies under semi authoritarian political framework or somewhat democratic framework where political and civic freedoms are facilitated by governments, the states seem to meet the desires of multinational corporations and the powerful states that dominate the global agenda. Thus the question is not what we can learn from Fidel, Che, Mao or indeed the Cuban model? The serious question to ponder about is how we could create a state that does not cross the line when it comes to adopting this globally dominant neoliberal economic model that has the potential to create new dependencies and lose our land, rights and freedoms. Can we become isolationist like Cuba and go on our own for our economic survival? Can we afford not to invite foreign investment to some degree? Are there other, more socially just political and economic models that we can examine for developing our economies and societies?

Multinationals from the free world and state enterprises from China etc. are interested in our labour, resources or strategically important facilities like ports for a variety of reasons. For negotiating economic and infrastructure projects countries like Sri Lanka have to compromise. However, such compromises do not have to be beyond our national interest. Rather than idolizing Fidel or Rajapaksa and demonizing Sirisena or Wickremesinghe, the need of the hour is to look for a development model that do not require us to compromise our needs, liberties, and sovereignty. Mega industrial and tourism projects funded and operated by foreign entities can have serious social, cultural consequences though they may generate taxes or employment. We cannot be blind to these consequences. From Fidel and Cuba, we can learn how to protect national sovereignty. From China, Russia and Vietnam we can learn how not to curb political and other freedoms.

Foreign corporations and other entities prefer to deal with authoritarian and semi authoritarian regimes, as they do not wish to face popular protests against their ventures or activities. Local ruling classes and capitalist classes collaborate with such corporations, entities and even the states promoting their interests in search of foreign capital, knowhow, and capacities for generating employment. Nonetheless, the interest of these foreign corporations, powerful states and entities is not necessarily the welfare of our peoples but more profits for their shareholders. States and the capitalist-ruling classes in developing countries are embedded in the corporate sectors -local and foreign – in following the neoliberal, free-market, globalisation model of development. In fact the state itself has increasingly become a corporate entity.

In such a situation, the role of our intellectuals and progressive elements of society should be to articulate a vision for a progressive state that looks after the welfare of the people, more sustainable, less dependent economic development model both of which may secure our liberties, rights and freedoms including country’s sovereignty. This vision needs to be based on the aspirations of the masses (middle to lower classes, those in poverty, disadvantaged segments of society due to the expansion of this neoliberal, free market driven policies, programs, projects) rather than the interests of capitalist class or the ruling class which have assumed capitalist characteristics by involving in private ventures in addition to being elected or appointed members of parliament. If we follow JR, Korean or Singapore model, the risk is that the country may enter another era of authoritarian governance to safeguard foreign capital, ventures, and interests. To prevent this, progressive elements and intellectuals need to unite and develop a distinct political platform drawing lessons from Fidel and other leaders who have battled imperialism but leaving aside ideas and practices that are not relevant to today’s needs of the masses or the context. In doing so, it is very important not to adopt personality cults. We need to go after innovative, creative ideas and examples of sustainability from the global south in economic and political terms as well as in indigenous knowledge construction and dissemination.

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Latest comments

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    Well said. Well balanced.

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    Unlike the carping and self promoting article of Dayan J, here is a thought provoking article written analysing the needs of the country at a critical stage of its existence. A change can be effected now and it is necessary to discuss the alternatives. Mr Gamage is to be applauded for his initiative. We do not have to agree with him but he has started a worthwhile discussion.

    We do not need to follow Cuba or any country that is not in keeping with the wishes of Sri Lankans who have natural inclinations to democracy and will not follow a purely communist model or be subservient to a dictator. The resounding defeat of Dayan J’s master, Rajapakse, demonstrated that quite effectively.

    The selling of the country to foreign interests, which the present government has embarked upon, will also no find favour with the people. Free market economics has failed in Sri Lanka. It is necessary to search for a solution that is acceptable to all citizens.

    The need of the day is to prevent corruption so that the existing wealth of the state can be conserved. Then there is the need to solve the communal problem which cost us so many lives and destroyed the economy.

    We must have a leader who can root out corruption, stand upto those who prevent a solution to the ethnic problem and ensure that social welfare is available to the poor. Such a leader has not appeared on the horizon. Sirisena-Wichremasinghe combination is falling into the same abyss of corruption as others did.

    It would not be a bad idea now to devolve power to the different provinces so that there could be experiments in diversity of the means through which progress could be made. This may hopefully ensure that corruption is ended ( or that it is multiplied nine times over). But, at least, it may bring about a solution to the ethnic problem.

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    The essay is worthy one to read. It argues its points.

    But the sad or sorrowful part is it’s Heading modeling, which is suggesting this is an answer to the Thero De Silva’s earlier rubbish, rather than lesson leant on Cuba. Does one there in CT still bothering about Thero? Thero, a policy-less person attaches him to tyrants only because he understands if there is any political space to sing self-pride that is only with tyrants.
    Suggestion for heading: “Steering Rudderless- Helmsman-less Lankawe with a Middle Path”.

    We don’t believe neoliberalism eventually creates authoritarianism. Singapore is now less fearful to china or America than earlier and internally practicing more liberal, non-authoritarian politics than the time of Lee Kuan Yee. There is no international investments in Lankawe, but Lankawe is forced to sell its lands to China, Saudi, Arabia India,… because of the tyranny existed there. I understand Younger Brother Prince Sold lands in Sigiriya to Saudi Arabia without any line to stop the tyranny.

    Tamil Nadu says 500 of its poor fishermen are shot by Lankawe. Then what Lankawe would have done to world if it’s strong as America? Easy to blame America for Iraq, but whom to blame now for Turkey?

    When millions of Tamils refugees were put out, they survived by the Geneva Convention. We do not believe the international treaties, many are voluntary, aims to slaves the poor countries. Trades, rights, environment… are improving because the powerful countries in North America, EU, & Japan, Australia, China are giving up their comforts. We believe in strong UN. Veto power has to be removed, but not before the tyrants led small countries can get into democracies. More than 75% of the small countries are struggling without knowing how to get into democracy. A higher UN oversight is needed in those countries. But the veto is remaining as obstacle. This a problem both ends of it hooked into one another.

    That is why we believe statism – or the nationalism creates the tyranny. Cuba’s main problem was tyranny. The poor people are not able to live tightening their belt unless they perform Thero de Silva’s like Nude dances to tyrants. Long cigars and European drinks might be from looted money, but some essays are saying Castro cohabited with 35,000 women. In’t Lankawe listed as one in the 22 nations of rape weapon country? Thero De Silva like pimps enjoys their perks from tyrants on the pain of the poor. They don’t need answer.

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    System of socialism is for the well being of People of any country. Socialism looking for prosperity of country and their people by an eradication of level of poverty step by step.

    Not the whole system can removed exploitation of man by man at once, or by overnight which that Trotsky advocated by uninterrupted revolution of theory of so-called ” Permanent revolution” or by anarchist of social Revolutionaries.

    Fidel played grater role in Cuba of anti-Imperialism struggle against US headed hegemonies.

    Hence the Struggle against US capital and development of productive forces in your own country at the same time is quite impossible at that time. Why was that Soviet Union and CPSU has turn into restoration of Capitalism since after death of Stalin.

    While Cuban revolution was came into being after 10 years after the 1949 Chinese revolution.
    In fact China was semi-colonial and semi-Feudal country, her level of Economic was sustain by long struggle and wise leadership of Mao-CPC vision of politics of Socialism.
    The economic of China has not sufficient resources to bail-out Cuban or any other countries .

    In case of Cuban revolution was stage of uncertainties around world situation at that time 1959.
    But the leadership of Fidel and CPC has vision to overcome most difficult period of history by resistance against US led Imperialism closed land to Imperial soil.
    Like it or not Fidel has to alliance with USSR and CPSU for the survival of Cuban Revolution by and large.

    That was the great and historical achievement by Fidel and CPC of Cuba.

    That was key lesson we have to learn from Fidel line of politics of Cuban model.
    It is not failure of Fidel or socialism of Cuba ,there is no room for capital formation in Cuba after the revolution in 1959 due to Trade embargo by US capital market. Having such objective conditions revolution remain bastion of American Continaltial .

    But social disparity will not bring social justice at all. Even some capitalists countries has narrow the gap of social dipartites, but that must be easy to working towards socialist goal than certain third world nation are under domination of US led Imperial capital.

    The Cuban path and model of Socialism has to go long way.

    But Cuba has challenges to US hegemony and its political power that credit should gives to Fidel an CPC of Cuba. In world there is no unique model or path of Socialism ,but it basic principle socialism are same an Economy system want be change by country to country.

    That is only one way that Marxism and Leninism which play role of guidance to emancipation of human kind in world.

  • 0
    0

    System of socialism is for the well being of People of any country. Socialism looking for prosperity of country and their people by an eradication of level of poverty step by step.

    Not the whole system can removed exploitation of man by man at once, or by overnight which that Trotsky advocated by uninterrupted revolution of theory of so-called ” Permanent revolution” or by anarchist of social Revolutionaries.

    Fidel played grater role in Cuba of anti-Imperialism struggle against US headed hegemonies.

    Hence the Cuba that Struggle against US capital and development of productive forces in your own country at the same time is quite impossible at that time. Why was that ? Soviet Union and CPSU has turn into restoration of path of Capitalism since after death of Stalin.

    While Cuban revolution was came into being after 10 years after the 1949 Chinese revolution.
    In fact China was semi-colonial and semi-Feudal country, her level of Economic was sustain by long struggle and wise leadership of Mao-CPC vision of politics of Socialism.
    The economic of China has not sufficient resources to bail-out Cuban or any other countries .

    In case of Cuban revolution was stage of uncertainties around world situation at that time 1959.
    But the leadership of Fidel and CPC has vision to overcome most difficult period of history by resistance against US led Imperialism closed land to Imperial soil.
    Like it or not Fidel have to have to alliance with USSR and CPSU for the survival of Cuban Revolution by and large.

    That was the great and historical achievement by Fidel and CPC of Cuba.

    That was key lesson we have to learn from Fidel line of politics of Cuban model.
    It is not failure of Fidel or socialism of Cuba ,there is no room for capital formation in Cuba after the revolution in 1959 due to Trade embargo by US capital market. Having such objective conditions revolution remain bastion of American Continaltial and world.

    But social disparity will not bring social justice at all. Even some capitalists countries has narrow the gap of social dipartites, but that must be easy to working towards socialist goal than certain third world nation are under domination of US led Imperial capital.

    The Cuban path and model of Socialism has to go long way.

    But Cuba has challenges to US hegemony and its political power that credit should gives to Fidel an CPC of Cuba.

    In world there is no unique model or path of Socialism ,but it basic principle socialism are same an Economy system wan’t be change by country to country.

    That is only one way that Marxism and Leninism which play role of guidance to emancipation of human kind in world.

  • 0
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    [But Cuba has challenges to US hegemony and its political power that credit should gives to Fidel an CPC of Cuba]
    So now can give credit to Nero for playing the violin while Rome on fire.

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