Deputies discuss performance
of Cuba’s economy
LIVIA RODRÍGUEZ DELIS
President Raúl Castro closed the National Assembly of People’s Power third period of ordinary sessions with a speech offering a snapshot of the country’s current economic situation, and addressing the international situation, in addition to its impact on Cuba.
Over the course of four days, Cuban deputies meeting in Havana’s Convention Center, heard reports on progress in the implementation of Policy Guidelines approved at the 6th Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba, and the country’s Economic Plan for the first half 2014.
Legislators analyzed the national situation with priority given to aspects of economic planning; the work of the Comptroller General’s Office; changes in the agricultural sector intended to promote its development; and international collaboration, among other issues.
Minister of Economy and Planning Adel Yzquierdo reported to deputies that the Cuban economy had grown 0.6% during the first half of 2014 – less than the amounted projected, as a result of several factors, both internal and external.
“The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) did not increase at the rate predicted as a result of a low level of external income, weather problems and internal deficiencies,” he said.
“All of this amidst a complex international situation, and the tightening of the economic, commercial and financial blockade of Cuba maintained by the United States for more than 50 years.”
In his report to the Assembly, the minister described positive economic performances during the first months of 2014, including 6.2% growth in transportation, warehousing and communications. He cited as factors contributing to the sugar industry’s shortcomings, poor industrial performance and less than full utilization of industrial capacity, as a result of organizational deficiencies and adverse weather conditions.
Yzquierdo explained that the most notable decelerations occurred in manufacturing, hotels and restaurant services, and mining (nickel and building materials).
As for projected growth during the rest of 2014, Yzquierdo indicated that an annual increase of 1.4% in the GDP is now expected, less than the originally planned 2.2%.
He also reported on the status of international trade, indicating that exports reached 83% of the amount projected, and imports 94%, during the first half of the year.
The nation’s Comptroller General Gladys Bejerano presented an accountability report to legislators.
The document emphasized the importance of the Comptroller’s office informing National Assembly Commissions of findings which emerge from comprehensive audits of Central State Administration Bodies. This information should allow Commissions to exercise their constitutional authority to supervise state and government bodies.
The report stated that the General Comptroller’s office intends to continue studying the causes and conditions which led to inappropriate acts discovered during audits, differentiating those which were a result of human error from those reflecting deficiencies in the country’s economic-financial system, or were a consequence of it, thus allowing effective preventative measures to be taken.
Agriculture Minister Gustavo Rodríguez Rollero reported to the 600-plus deputies that plans have been developed for the country’s principal lines of production, defining actions to be taken through 2020, including the acquisition of modern, efficient technology to address the problem of a diminishing workforce.
He reported that the comprehensive improvement plan for the country’s agricultural system consists of three stages and includes a total of 76 tasks which must be carried out. Significant investment is projected to complete the production cycle and achieve a stable food supply for the population, he said.
According to the website Cuba Si, Rodríguez Rollero indicated that 66% of the agricultural workforce is organized in cooperatives, representing the country’s greatest strength and making support imperative to facilitate the functioning of these entities.
Toward this end, he said, obstacles to the development of Basic Units of Cooperative Production (UBPC) have been eliminated with the immediate implementation of 17 measures, while 23 other regulations are now in place to ensure that all agricultural production management models (different types of cooperatives and state enterprise local units) are on equal footing.
The Minister of Agriculture reported that direct sales by producers to tourist installations have continued to grow since first authorized, reaching a level in 2013 five times greater than that of 2012.
Deputies addressing the minister’s report agreed that increases in agricultural production, along with improvements in the distribution and sales system, must contribute to gradually reducing prices paid by consumers on the retail market.
In addition to carefully discussing laws being considered for approval, legislators reiterated their commitment to winning the release of Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero and Ramón Labañino, three Cuban anti-terrorists unjustly imprisoned in the United States for more than 15 years.
President Raúl Castro on the country’s current economic situation