Cubans are currently voting in a national referendum which if successful, will see the island nation adopt a new constitution. Among the most significant reforms in the new constitution are the following:
–The post of Prime Minister will be created and his or her role will be to author domestic policy and execute the implementation of these policies with the aid and scrutiny of the unicameral National Assembly (soon to function as a parliament)
–Presidential powers will be limited in respect of period in office, but more importantly in terms of policy making (e.g. much of this will be devolved to the Prime Minister)
–Private property and domestic enterprise will be legalised and fully integrated into a new market socialist model with Cuban characteristics
–Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) will be actively promoted as the new constitution shifts to a pro-FDI model
–Remaining state owned enterprises will operate on an autonomous and economically progressive model as they do in China
When taken as a whole, Cuba is clearly moving towards a Chinese economic model that Deng Xiaoping described as “market socialism”. When during the Reform and Opening Up of 1978, Deng Xiaoping put China on the path towards economic modernisation, 88% of all Chinese lived in poverty. Today, this figure is less than 2% and even this is set to be eliminated by the end of 2020. Clearly, Cuba seeks to follow this example of success whilst also gradually moving to a domestic model of parliamentary governance that helped transform Singapore into south east Asia’s towering economic success story.
While Cuba’s official poverty rate remains around 5%, a generally respectable figure for a developing country that has been embargoed by its superpower neighbour since the early 1960s – the statistics tell only part of the story. In Cuba, homelessness is more or less non-existent while health and education are free from cradle to grave. In spite of this, the country remains materially behind the times when compared with many larger socialist with modernised economies, including both Vietnam and especially China.
The impetus to adopt a US style neo-liberal system remains low among Cubans actually living in Cuba. Furthermore, Donald Trump’s reversal of the always exaggerated Obama era thaw has made it clear to the leadership in Havana that while the US is happy to dominate Cuba, it remains unwilling to respect its sovereignty.
Consequently, the clear path for Cuba as dictated by circumstance is the road to a market socialist model with Cuban characteristics. Against this background, it was no coincidence that last year in Havana, Cuban President Díaz-Canel held a lengthy meeting with Li Qiang, a senior official of the Communist Party of China. After the meeting, China vowed to deepen, widen and accelerate an already friendly relationship with Cuba.
According to a report on the meeting from official Chinese news agency, Xinhua,
“Li said the two countries are bound by the common ideal. In the new era, China will continue to steadfastly deepen its sincere, loyal friendship with Cuba, promote mutually-beneficial and win-win cooperation, be partners in reforms and development, so as to lift the Sino-Cuban relations to a higher level”.
Cuba’s universally literate population, among the most highly educated in the Caribbean, is likewise well placed to benefit from an increase in economic development that a Chinese partnership when paired with a domestic market socialist system can achieve.
By adopting a pro-FDI model of international commerce, creating a more innovation and enterprise friendly domestic economic model and by moving away from a strongman presidency to an accountable unicameral parliamentary system, Cuba has adopted a system of governance and economic modernisation that has helped to lift millions out of poverty.
It is therefore little wonder that the constitutional reforms are expected to be granted the approval of the Cuban people.