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Decentralization, participation, and consumer services: A case study of municipal enterprises in Cuba

Stanley Malinowitz, University of Massachusetts Amherst


The dissertation considers the decentralization of some economic activities, mostly in consumer services, to municipal governments in Cuba since the mid-1970s, and popular participation in municipal governments and services through the system known as Popular Power. The consumer service sector is considered one of the most inefficient in Cuba, as in many of the formerly centrally-planned socialist economies, and a source of widespread dissatisfaction despite being the sector most open to the mechanisms of popular participation. Comparisons are drawn with the social services, also decentralized but under different conditions and with very different results, and with productive sectors of the economy that remained under central control. The study focuses on municipal enterprises in Cuba and addresses three key questions. First, to what extent have the municipalities been able to self-manage the municipal enterprises, given the degree of centralization of the economy? Second, how effectively have they been able to use whatever power they have to self-manage? And third, how participatory or representative is the management of these enterprises with respect to the community as a whole? Findings include problems of excessive centralization and rigidity, disarticulation from broader structures, internal problems of incentives, bureaucracy, and hierarchy, and severe limits on the forms, scope, and effectiveness of popular participation. Three periods are considered: one of relative stability and central planning from the beginning of the Popular Power system in the 1970s through the 1980s, another of economic crisis beginning in the early 1990s, and the current period of recovery and restructuring since the mid-1990s. Changes in the structure and functioning of the municipal enterprises and governments are examined in the context of a changing national and international context, including the growth of legal and illegal private actors in many of the same services provided by the municipalities and the increasing reliance on markets and hard-currency transactions. A case study involving interviews, data collection, and participant observation in the municipality of Regla is presented as a complement to analysis of official documents and use of prior investigations and case studies by Cuban and foreign researchers.

Subject Area

Economics|Public administration

Recommended Citation

Malinowitz, Stanley, "Decentralization, participation, and consumer services: A case study of municipal enterprises in Cuba" (2006). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3212739.