Importing and exporting for entrepreneurs is not a chore, it is a national necessity.
The First Secretary of the Party’s Central Committee and President of the Republic, Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, and the Prime Minister, Manuel Marrero Cruz, held an exchange with directors of entities with the power to provide foreign trade services to non-state forms of management, which was based on an investigation requested by the country’s leadership.
The president explained that the meeting was based on the concerns of the entrepreneurs themselves (MSMEs and self-employed workers), who were dissatisfied with the way in which some of these services are provided.
Although we have spoken here with state entrepreneurs who have a clear understanding of exactly what the country wants, and in their interventions they have offered a comprehensive, objective and committed approach, this is not the case everywhere, which is why the purpose of this meeting is to improve the mechanisms created and to be aware of their importance, he said.
He added that this is a theme that was part of the 8th Party Congress, aimed at improving foreign trade by defending the efficiency, quality and professionalism that should characterise these socialist state enterprises.
All our economic actors, state and non-state, are important; all, according to their scale, have a task to fulfil, and all are contemplated in the Social-Economic Strategy, the President stressed.
The import-export entities – he said – must take into account the heterogeneity of the different economic agents, and when they are going to provide a service, they must put themselves in the place of the person requesting it, think about what treatment he or she wants to receive, which must be the best.
When a non-state economic actor comes to you, he does so with the certainty that he is going to an entity where he will receive a professional, appropriate, agile service…. But is that what predominates?” asked Díaz-Canel, who explained that this activity requires an integral vision; not only economic, but also ideological and political.
When those who work in the non-state sector have confidence in state institutions, they are also expressing their confidence in the Revolution, he stressed.
The First Secretary had explained earlier that while, because of their strategic nature, state control over foreign trade is defended, it is also necessary for these entities to function efficiently, otherwise, he argued, what we do is lose credibility.
There are dissatisfactions, and they are not few.
Led by the member of the Political Bureau and prime minister, Manuel Marrero Cruz, at the meeting the head of Foreign Trade and Investment, Rodrigo Malmierca Díaz, recalled that this measure began to be implemented in August 2020.
On that date, a group of resolutions were published in the Official Gazette that gave the possibility to non-state management forms to carry out foreign trade activities through state-owned companies.
Since the implementation of the measure began, the need to provide an efficient service was made clear by the country’s leadership, Malmierca Díaz acknowledged.
The head of the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Investment (Mincex) also referred to two measures that were subsequently approved, but which have not progressed as they should.
One is “aimed at strengthening the wholesale market with foreign suppliers; in other words, placing goods in the country on consignment or in customs warehouses or in association with foreign capital”.
The other was aimed at creating state-owned MSMEs specialised in providing services to non-state forms of management, but this is not going well either; “only three have been created and they are still not fully operational due to a series of difficulties in getting them up and running”.
Another element to improve, he stressed, is social communication, “we must be much more active in publicising the possibilities that are being offered”.
Today, 58 companies have been approved by the Executive Committee of the Council of Ministers to carry out foreign trade for non-state management, but 21 have not yet done so; 16 because they have not completed the procedures, and five have everything ready, but have not carried out any foreign trade activities.
When analysing the issue of the formalities to be carried out by state entities, he explained that the permitting process is very heavy. There are more than 70 regulations governing them and we have to continue to review and make them more flexible; many, he added, date back to the 1990s and are not in tune with the new conditions in which our economy operates.
He also pointed out that the main dissatisfaction with non-state forms of management is related to delays of various kinds, some objective, but others subjective, such as the certifications that a large group of Cuban organisations must grant for the products or services they offer.
A recent investigation carried out by a team assisting the Council of Ministers revealed achievements and dissatisfactions in the implementation of this activity, both for state-owned companies and entrepreneurs.
For the evaluation, 26 state entities authorised to carry out foreign trade for non-state forms of management and several of these clients were contacted, in addition to exchanges with the governing structure of the activity in the Mincex.
The results of the analysis indicate that the measure has proven its validity and that there is growing interest from non-state management forms to join these activities; however, the system is limited by bureaucratic practices, slowness, lack of initiative and insufficient preparation of human resources; in addition to the coexistence of updated regulations with others that need to be revised.
The need to make the most of the reserves that exist, not only in the companies, but in all the entities associated with the mechanism to minimise the incidence of subjective factors and ensure that it functions in an efficient, sustainable and dynamic manner, was also evident.
Towards a higher stage
Several entrepreneurs presented both the successful experiences of their entities and the obstacles they still face, which had already been identified in the report presented to the meeting.
Ariadne Plasencia, president of the Grupo Empresarial de la Informática y las Comunicaciones (GEIC), under whose umbrella the companies Desoft, Softel and Solintel operate, pointed out that the measure has been positive for non-state forms of management and for their companies.
Business interaction with two MSMEs and four self-employed workers has facilitated operations worth more than $180,000. In June, the business group incorporated an electronic hardware store with products on consignment provided by foreign counterparts, which has allowed it to keep in demand and close the supply cycle, including transport.
Iván Barreto, director of Empresa de Informática y Medios Audiovisuales-Cinesoft, pointed out that in this process, import-export entities cannot wait to have all the conditions created, but rather generate them as they go along, as they have done in his entity.
Loretta Blanco, deputy director of the Grupo Empresarial de Comercio Exterior (Gecomex), commented that although they were used to importing large volumes, they have been gaining experience in relations with non-state forms of management and shortening procurement times.
In closing, the President of the Republic reiterated the precept that companies that have received authorisation to make import-export arrangements for the non-state sector must have agile and small structures that provide a fast and adequate service.
It is not a matter of fulfilling “a task”, he said, but a national need, and in this, he said, progress has not been as good as it should be, and some entities are held back by inertia.
Still, he reflected further, import and export levels for non-state forms are low. We need to go to a higher stage in these efforts, Díaz-Canel said, commenting that the meeting had helped to make that leap.
The meeting was attended by member of the Political Bureau and Vice President of the Republic, Salvador Valdés Mesa, and Joel Queipo Ruiz, member of the Secretary of the Central Committee of the Party; as well as deputy prime ministers Comandante de la Revolución Ramiro Valdés Menéndez, Inés María Chapman Waugh, Ricardo Cabrisas Ruiz, Alejandro Gil Fernández and Jorge Luis Perdomo Di-Lella, in addition to ministers and other authorities.