A few days ago Raúl Castro's regime revealed that the private sector on the island already employs 1.3 million workers, and that of 4.47 million people employed in the country, more than three million have state jobs.
In other words, today workers not tied to the state already represent 29% of the nation’s active work force. The country's working physiognomy has moved in the right direction, despite absurd obstacles, legal prohibitions, exorbitant taxes and fines, physical repression and even jail time.
The mistreated Cuban private sector consists of almost 600,000 people with permits to work on their own, who, in turn, employ another 700,000 people.
What Díaz-Canel's government should do is conduct a study of how much more efficient and productive these private workers are compared to those in the state sector, and to include in this study private agricultural workers in comparison with state ones. Then it should present the results, with proposals for more economic freedom, at meetings of the Political Bureau, Council of Ministers and the Council of State.
This would mean a new perestroika. Of course, because the top leaders of the regime are counterrevolutionary, and backward, they would demand the dismissal of the new president, and his imprisonment. It is that simple. We should recall that the Castro gerontocracy's hostility to the free market reaches such ridiculous heights that it even refuses to call the private sector by its name, instead referring to it as "non-state".
But this comparative mental exercise (market/state) is not entirely useless, as it serves for one to appreciate what pathological misanthropes the dictator, his military junta and all the nomenklatura are.
Private workers produce 90% of the food
They know that non-state agricultural workers, co-op members and those who work independently on leased state lands – and not copies of the USSR's sovjoses – produce almost 90% of what the population consumes; this, according to the National Statistics Office (ONEI).
Private agricultural laborers, according to the ANAP, produce 70% of the milk, 85% of the pork, and 68% of the country's foodstuffs. And they harvest 92% of its tobacco, one of the country's four main exports.
A report by Mundubat, a non-governmental development aid organization (NGDO) based in the Basque Country and linked to Cuban institutions, unveiled something equally amazing: 57% of the food produced in Cuba is squandered before reaching the consumer: 30% is lost in the harvest and post-harvest, and the other 27% during distribution to markets.
Despite private workers' overwhelming productive superiority and greater efficiency, relative to the state, the ruling elite refuses to allow the economic freedom that would liberate Cubans from the tragic poverty in which they live.
In addition, according to 2017 figures from the International Labor Organization (ILO) in Cuba there are another 2.1 million people of working age who do not have a job. Of course, they cannot have one because the private sector is too small to absorb them, and the state is saddled with inflated payrolls and workers that are left with little, or nothing, to do.
Thus, the unemployment rate in Cuba (almost 30%) ranks alongside or above that of countries in sub-Saharan Africa racked by joblessness, like Mauritania (31%) Gambia (29.8%), South Africa (27.3%) and Ivory Coast (23%).
A phenomenon that expresses how certain things are changing, despite it all, is that, weary of low wages, insufficient to support a family, many state workers abandon their workplaces, as they prefer to "get by" on the black market.
Poverty: a tool to maintain power
All this leads us to a somber reflection: the leaders of the dictatorial leadership feel more secure if all their countrymen are poor, and not rich and powerful like them. They sleep more soundly if Cuba's citizens depend on the state for everything, and just manage to meet their basic needs, day after day.
As inhuman as it may seem, one of the factors that explain the quasi-infinite longevity of the Castro dictatorship has been just this: the use of dire poverty to maintain social and political control.
People devote their energies and time to the "daily struggle" to survive, such that laying claim to their rights is not a priority of everyday life. This is why Cuba today is the only country in the West whose people live worse than they did in the middle of the 20th century.
Cuba is also the only nation where the law prohibits its citizens from investing money in their own country, and that does not recognize private businesses, but rather grants personal licenses to practice some trades. Neither does it take advantage of the know-how of its university professionals, as it prohibits them from offering their services on a private basis.
It is worth envisioning the development that Cuba could enjoy today if all its workers and professionals - not just 29% - worked in the private sector. Its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) would be five or six times higher, perhaps some 200 billion dollars, with a per capita figure comparable to that of some First World countries.
Given the ravages of the chavista devastation of Venezuela, and the Cuba’s consequent economic dependence on the cash that it receives from the US (via remittances, packages and travel), and Washington's policies towards Havana – which, far from making gracious concessions to the dictatorship in exchange for nothing, are poised to take additional measures to place pressure on the regime – sooner rather than later it will be necessary to permit self-employment and open up to the private sector, in general.
The crisis could force certain measures
Everything indicates that the structural and chronic crisis of Castro's economy will only worsen. It seems inevitable, given the circumstances. It will be truly difficult to wait until 2021 – or for the dictator to die, or be invalidated by disease – to make changes to the PCC Guidelines, and to grant more economic freedom to the self-employed.
It should be noted that during the 12 years of el raulismo, the biggest change that occurred in Cuba was not the "reform" he supposedly introduced, (which did not increase GDP), but rather a shift in the public's outlook.
The vast majority of Cubans today are convinced that their country's destiny is capitalism. They know that it is inexorable. What kind of capitalism, and how it will be established, is another story. The managers of state enterprises and establishments already see themselves as future owners, and are even training for this. It is common practice to report false revenue figures to the state, and then sell on the side, to make a profit.
This is one of the sources of the black market, which actually feeds, clothes and transports everyday Cubans. It is not possible to imagine life in Cuba without that market, the embryo (no longer so clandestine), of the market economy that, in one way or another, will be reinstalled on the island.
Today's self-employed workers will, inevitably, be the capitalists of tomorrow, together with eventual private entrepreneurs, foreign investors, and support provided by the Cuban diaspora and its know how. They will be the ones who will lift Cuba from its ashes. They will rebuild its devastated economy.
And the validity of that brilliant definition of socialism whispered by Poles in the 80s (only changing the suggestive first word) will be ratified: "Castroism, that long and tortuous road that runs from capitalism to capitalism."