Monday, July 25, 2011

Translation: Guidelines debate 14, Science/Environment

Cuban biotechnologist
Here is Part 14 of my translation of the booklet Information on the results of the Debate on the Economic and Social Policy Guidelines for the Party and the Revolution, an explanatory document published together with the final version of the Guidelines adopted by the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) Congress in April.

For a small Third World country subject to a US economic siege, Cuba has notched up some remarkable scientific advances in sectors such as biotechnology, medical technology and ecologically sustainable agriculture. Cuba has also invested heavily in computer science and software development.

In biotech and medical instruments Cuba is competitive with transnational pharmaceutical companies on the world market. It shares its advances in this sector, which include the first effective vaccine for meningitis B and a host of other innovations, with other Third World countries by selling them cheap drugs and helping them build plants to produce their own medications. By necessity Cuba has had to develop its own armaments and military hardware industry. Factories run by the armed forces were the proving ground for the new system of enterprise management known as Perfeccionamiento Empresarial (Enterprise Improvement) that is being extended to the civilian industrial sector, and whose principles are incorporated in the Guidelines. 

Thanks to the emphasis given to education and training since the 1959 Revolution the country has an abundance of highly skilled scientific and technical workers and educators. A key challenge of the reform process is how to harness the full potential of all this talent and apply it to the urgent problems of industrialisation in a besieged economy battered by two decades of a deep structural crisis precipitated by the demise of Soviet "socialism" and hobbled by a bloated, hyper-centralised administrative apparatus that must be gradually dismantled. Yet Cuba has created strong bases for the take-off of its scientific and technological potential in the context of the new Cuban model of socialist development that is emerging. 

Under capitalism vast resources are squandered on warfare, commercial advertising and technological innovation that has little or nothing to do with real human needs. Scientific talent is held hostage to corporate profiteering. Many of the best inventions gather dust on shelves because they aren't profitable to commercialise or because they threaten corporate profitability, and corporate secrecy undermines scientific collaboration for the benefit of working people. By contrast, socialist-oriented Cuba is subject to none of this irrationality. The socialist revolution has smashed the barriers to scientific and technical collaboration, and innovation is directed to where it's most needed to benefit the working people as a whole.

During the post-Soviet Special Period a grassroots movement of innovators, many of them workers on the factory floor or farmers in the fields, kept much of Cuba's dilapidated industry running long after the supply of imported spare parts had slowed to a trickle. At periodic national gatherings these inventors would proudly share their inventions, and those judged to be the best won prizes. Social recognition and the desire to serve the Revolution, rather than self-enrichment, were the motivating factors.

These guidelines were amended, and new ones added, on the basis of the mass consultation process that took place in the lead-up to the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) Congress in April. As you can see, important modifications were made to include more content on ecological sustainability; the inclusion of small-scale private and cooperative forms of productive property or management of social property in the scope of the guidelines; and the participation of work collectives at the grassroots level in the application of innovation to production and services. Nearly five thousand proposals were made regarding the new guideline 139, an indication of the strong desire of workers to have more involvement in the management of their workplaces.

As usual, the modifications also make the Guidelines more understandable to non-specialists. The language of the draft document reflected the fact that it was drawn up by teams of specialists. Not surprisingly, though efforts were evidently made to present the proposals in an understandable way, it was still heavily laden with technical and legalistic jargon and "bureaucratese". The final version reads more clearly.

The format is as follows: number and text of the draft guideline, followed by the text and number of the corresponding guideline approved by the Communist Party Congress, followed by the drafting commission's explanation for the change. You'll find it easiest to read on my blog where the amended guidelines are in bold font.

Science, Technology and Innovation Policy


Chapter title: amended to “Science, Technology, Innovation and Environment Policy”

Broadens its scope to explicitly incorporate the environment and give a more systematic focus to the themes of the chapter, given 123 opinions in 11 provinces and the Isle of Youth.

New guideline:

Draw up an integrated science, technology, innovation and environment policy that  takes into consideration the accelerated changes in these areas and their increasing interrelation to meet the needs of economic and social development in the short, medium and long term, aimed at increasing economic efficiency and exports of high added value, import substitution, satisfying the necessities of the population and promoting its participation in the building of socialism, and protecting the environment, heritage and national culture. (129)

Included as a new general guideline. States that the new policy to be drawn up must be integral and incorporate existing environmental policy. In response to 2,775 opinions nationwide, one National Assembly deputy and the discussion at the Congress.       

122. Create the organisational, legal and institutional conditions needed to achieve a form of economic organisation and a system of generalisation that combines scientific investigation, the development of new products and services, productive efficiency and the management of exports.

Proposes studying and taking advantage of experiences, and leaves open the possibility there there may be more than one organisational form. Introduces the aspect of innovation and stresses the idea of stimulating the integral reproduction of the [research-innovation-production-sales] cycle. Incorporates part of the content of the original guideline 202, and includes universities. Given 2,414 opinions nationwide and the Congress discussion.   

123. The results achieved in the biotechnology sector, the production of advanced medical equipment, the software industry, educational technologies, and scientific and technological services of high added value, and bioinformatics and nanotechnology must be sustained and developed.  

Sustain and the develop the results achieved in the biotechnology sector, the medical-pharmaceutical industry, the software industry and the computerisation of society, basic sciences, the natural sciences, the study and application of renewable energy sources, social and educational technologies, industrial technology transfer, the production of advanced technical equipment, nanotechnology and scientific and technical services of high added value. (131)

Introduces other basic branches and strategic lines for scientific and technological development. Based on 846 opinions nationwide, that of one National Assembly deputy and the Congress discussion.

124. Sustain and develop, simultaneously, studies on adaptation, mitigation and climate change; conservation and the rational use of natural resources, in particular of soils, water and forests; and of the social sciences, which are equally necessary with regard to these objectives.      

Sustain and develop integral studies for the protection, conservation and rehabilitation of the environment, and adapt environmental policy to the new projections for the economy and society. Prioritise studies on dealing with climate change and, in general, sustainable development. Emphasise conservation and the rational use of natural resources such as soils, water, beaches, the atmosphere, forests and biodiversity as well as the promotion of environmental education. (133)

Treats the environment and environmental studies separately. Takes into consideration sustainable development, confronting climate change and the conservation and rational use of natural resources. In response to 1,085 opinions nationwide, that of a National Assembly deputy and the Congress discussions.

125. To appropriately orient industrial development, the carrying out of studies aimed at elaborating a strategic industrial policy must be institutionalised and systematised, on the basis of the dynamic tendencies of technological change, with the aim of creating the conditions for the industrial sector to assume a key role in economic growth, the capacity for innovation and structural change in the productive sector, and so that it contributes in a significant way to greater economic independence and technological sovereignty in strategic branches of the economy.        

Define an industrial policy that contributes to reorienting industrial development, and that monitors the use of existing technologies in the country with a view to promoting their systematic modernisation, taking into account energy efficiency, productive efficacy and environmental impact, and that contributes to greater technological sovereignty in strategic branches of the economy. Consider the importation of technologies, the country’s capacity to assimilate them and the support services they require, the production of spare parts, and compliance with metrology and quality norms. (135)

Stresses the importance of a technology policy that serves as a basis for the reorientation of industrial development. Responds to the problem of technological obsolescence. Specifies the issues of spare parts, metrology and quality norms. Given 110 opinions in 11 provinces, that of a National Assembly deputy and the Congress discussion.

126. In the specific case of the agricultural sector, the application of science and technology to increasing food production and improving animal health must be boosted in all links in the productive chain, reducing production costs on the basis of the production of biofertilisers, insecticides and similar products that allow for a reduction in imports and dependence on external markets for these product lines.        

In agro-industrial activity, the application of an integrated approach to science, technology, innovation and the environment in the entire productive chain will be boosted, with the aim of increasing food production, improving animal health and producer services, reduced costs, and better utilisation of machinery and inputs for national production and of the scientific-technological capacity at the disposal of the country. (136)

Covers all agro-industrial activity. Prioritises the reduction of food imports. Incorporates the content of draft guideline 187. In response to 1,960 opinions nationwide and one National Assembly deputy.

127. In general, the socialist state enterprise must create conditions for the incorporation of scientific and technological developments, where possible and necessary.  

All forms of management of economic entities will be ensured a regulatory framework that promotes the systematic and accelerated introduction of the results of science, innovation and technological development in productive processes and in services, taking into account the established norms of social and environmental responsibility. (134)

Generalises the guideline to include entities in all sectors and forms of property ownership and management. Highlights the importance of a regulatory framework that promotes the incorporation of the results of science and innovation and of environmental and social sustainability criteria. In response to 970 opinions in 14 provinces.

128. The completion and application of the legal instruments required by the System of Scientific and Technological Innovation must be worked on with urgency.

Adopt the necessary functional reordering and structural measures and update the corresponding legal instruments to achieve the integrated and effective management of the Science, Technology, Innovation and Environment System (130).

Completes the elements to be taken into account in the updating of the system. Given 618 opinions nationwide.   

New guideline:

Continue to promote social science and humanities research on the key aspects of social life, and prefect the methods of introducing the results of these studies in decision-making at all levels. (137)

Makes specific reference to the social sciences and humanities. Establishes as an objective the application of the results of these studies. In response to 935 opinions nationwide and that of a National Assembly deputy.   

New guideline:

Give greater attention to the continual education and training of technical personnel and qualified cadres that responds to and anticipates scientific and technological developments in the key areas of production and services, as well as the prevention and mitigation of social and environmental impacts. (138)  

Gathers together concepts contained in guideline 202 of the draft document. Emphasises the updating of the scientific-technological education of professionals, mid-level technicians, specialists and cadres. Given 563 opinions in 15 provinces.   

New guideline:

Define and promote new ways of stimulating the creativity of the work collectives at the base level, and strengthen their participation in the solution of the technological problems of production and services and in the promotion of ecologically sustainable methods of production. (139)

Adopts as a guideline the promotion of the management of innovation in the work collectives at the base [i.e. factory floor] level. In response to 4,976 opinions nationwide and that of one National Assembly deputy.

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