Given the deplorable transportation situation in Cuba, the Government looks towards the private sector

Given the deplorable transportation situation in Cuba, the Government looks towards the private sector

HAVANA, Oct. 20  The Government does not yet know how to integrate private companies into passenger transport to make it attractive, but it is studying it.The Minister of Transportation, Eduardo Rodríguez Dávila, told it this Thursday in a Round Table in which he offered the deplorable data of his sector, in which the participation of MSMEs becomes essential.

This is not new, he recalled, since self-employed workers and cooperatives have already been present in the activity, but now there are more than 350 MSMEs, he said, dedicated to passenger transportation, cargo transportation, workshops, road repair, and production of components and spare parts. All of them can contribute to improving the depressed sector.

Now, how to make the incorporation of the private sector attractive? The Government still does not know. Rodríguez Dávila explained the problem well. When the company has losses to maintenance rates, vehicles running or fuel, the State supports them with the budget.

This does not happen with other forms of management, which invest in leasing and improvements or in the purchase of a vehicle and then have no way to cover the investment, since the prices of the trips are regulated, although he admitted that there is a lack of control to ensure that this is fulfilled.

“Really with state companies we have been used to working in one way, but with non-state forms of management we have to work in a different way.

The goal is the same, the provision of a service in accordance with the standards expected by our population, but the way of approaching it is not the same. We have to learn how to do it well, it is a negotiation system in which there are several actors setting the rules of the game,” he stated.

The minister said that he is working in a group together with the United Nations “to improve public-private relations, taking the experiences of the world.”

Rodríguez Dávila also encouraged state entities to rent vehicles that have paralyzed MSMEs, since, he maintained, they sometimes refuse due to fear or ignorance. Despite this, more than 1,000 means of transport have been rented to private and other public companies.

“We have many variants but our vision is to try to ensure that both state and non-state companies can develop their activities efficiently because that definitely results in better service to the people,” he said.

“How can the State not fix a vehicle and the private vehicle can? You have to look at the dimensions. One car is not the same as 500, but there are also concerns linked to prices and control of transportation activities,” he said.

Before reaching that point, Rodríguez Dávila had depressed viewers with a cascade of horrifying data about the state of the sector, by land, sea and air. The cause, once again, is the lack of foreign currency. A new bus is about $200,000, a locomotive is $3 million, and a boat or plane is much more.

Spare parts or materials to manufacture them are also purchased outside the Island, and that limits the options, said the minister, who did not mention the donations or Chinese and Russian cooperation, mainly, which somewhat alleviate the situation.

In figures, Rodríguez Dávila said that 1,500 means of transport that were stopped have been recovered. “What happens [is] that you recover it and then you have the fuel limitation or with the same level of activity they get damaged again,” he admitted.

The graphs that were shown leave devastating data. In 1986, thanks to years of Soviet subsidy, the maximum peak of passengers on the Island occurred, 2,236 million; but in 1998 the collapse reached less than 500 million, below the Republican period.

Although the Venezuelan intervention, the reforms and the thaw allowed it to regain strength and in 2017 it moved 2,275 million passengers, last year it closed with just 1,008.

Although there is no need to go that far back.

Other numbers: provincial transportation companies transported 902 million travelers in 2017, compared to 274 expected for this year. In Havana, where the situation has had the least effect, only 37% of the travelers there were five years ago are expected, while Cienfuegos (11%) and Holguín (12%) are the ones with the worst projection.

“Less than 300 buses are working in Havana, a city that in the 80s had 2,500 buses and just four years ago, 600,” said Rodríguez Dávila.

The air situation is not better, national flights to Santiago de Cuba and Holguín have been restored, but there are no flights to Camagüey and Gerona because the plane is damaged.

All despite the fact that Russia has contributed. “Recently, we received a Russian-made TU-204 that was modernized and will be put into operation soon and we have an IL-96 and some ATR that can help the most internally in the country.” An attempt is also being made to acquire some ships with foreign investment to renew the fleet, he added.

As for the catamaran and the ferry, they take turns. Rodríguez Dávila recalled that the latter was stopped due to lack of fuel, but now it will work again. Of course, to suspend the ferry, which needs maintenance.

And finally, the railway, which he said, despite the delays, maintains stability and meets travel times. “There is a general level of satisfaction,” he said.

This is different in the case of cargo. 50% of the freight trains do not work and, although work is being done to recover them – thanks to the workshops, cars and locomotives of international cooperation – the process is slow. “To the same extent that you are recovering, there are other means that were working that stop working due to new difficulties,” he lamented.

All this despite the fact that the load has decreased due to the reduction in purchase volume. “We are practically transporting half as much as four or five years ago (…) according to the possibilities of the economy,” he explained.

Furthermore, Rodríguez Dávila dedicated a few good minutes to the situation of the roads, which cause a large number of accidents, as has been warned on many occasions.

This time, the minister admitted it without excuses. “There has been a deterioration that we have not been able to contain and the roads have a problem, which is the lack of a timely solution to the suffering of potholes and cracks,” he explained.

The reason, again, he attributed to the shortage of foreign currency, especially for the acquisition of materials, but also parts for the machinery that he repairs. “Many times the fuel limitation means that we are not able to produce the aggregate or place it later,” he added.

That is why he also foresees that, in addition to other municipal and provincial administrations and ministries that manage some roads, MSMEs will contribute; In fact, he reported that there is already a state-owned company that works in the manufacture of asphalt material.

“We are also going more actively to the form of non-state management in the repair of roads, we are also going to reorganize together with the Ministry of Finance and Prices to review the sources that can be used for financing because many times We have the asphalt but there is no budget to pay for that activity,” he explained.

Finally, regarding the old vehicle fleet, the minister said that the policy is being reviewed to advance “in the reorganization of the marketing of vehicles in Cuba.” Since Decree 83 was approved in March, allowing the purchase of these at wholesale prices, 1,000 vehicles have been sold.

This rule eliminated restrictions on the power of electric motorcycles, an improvement that, for the minister, “compensates in some way for the decrease in buses working in the capital.”

“Behind every bus, train and other vehicle that circulates is the effort of many people who make it possible every day; and taking care of the little we have is one of the premises to get ahead,” said Rodríguez Dávila in the customary final motivational statement.