Cuba’s President calls for faster pace of agreed reforms to spur recovery


A report of a meeting of Cuba’s Council of Ministers to consider changes to the country’s 2020 economic plan has quoted President Díaz-Canel as saying that “above all” it will be necessary to begin designing the country’s recovery from COVID-19.

“How are we going to open up tourism, how are we going to open up flights, from which countries, with which sectors; how are we going to open up economic and social activities (and) to what extent, (and) with what concepts”, the website of the CubanPresidency quoted him as saying.

In the face of a global crisis, he observed, more needed to be done than plan for 2020 and 2021. “We have to come up with different things, and prepare an Economic and Social Development Strategy”, he said. “We cannot continue doing things the same way”.

Díaz-Canel also reportedly stressed the need for key bodies involved in planning to evaluate how “in a faster, more determined, more organised way, we implement a group of issues that are pending”.

Cuba’s President noted that among these were “some forms of management and ownership; the resizing of the business and private sectors; and the adequate relationship that must exist between the two”. “We have good experiences at this time of the pandemic” he said, referring to the country’s private sector.

“It is not a matter of improvising, but of introducing in the economic schemes and development policies, the new actors and practices that have been approved in various state planning documents”.

“You have to have courage and we have to do different things. By doing the same we are not going to solve it, nor are we going to advance any further”, Díaz-Canel said, while stressing the need to maintain social equity and support for those with lower incomes and the most vulnerable.

His apparently direct comments were contained within a report detailing approval by the Council of Ministers of adjustments to the country’s 2020 Economic Plan and changes to the way the country’s 2021 plan would be developed.

At the meeting Deputy Prime Minister, Alejandro Gil, the Minister of Economy and Planning, was reported to have said that changes for 2020 would protect exports, prioritise the national production of food, medicine and hygiene products, intensify measures to save resources of all kinds, not just energy, and result in the lifting of barriers to productive activity and the commercialisation of basic resources.

Indicating a likely period of additional austerity, he said that while it was hoped to minimise the effect on workers and the population in general, “wealth that has not been created cannot be distributed” and that this was likely to have an impact.

Gil also reportedly told Ministers that the negative effect on foreign exchange resulting from the collapse in tourism, income from airport services, consular collections, and other convertible currency sources, required the plan to be adjusted and that it will not be possible to do all that had originally been intended. Some economic activities, he said, would have to be postponed while others would be slowed to prepare for recovery.

Gil set out thirty premises that would require changes to the State Plan. These included a greater focus on increased agricultural production, allocating material and foreign exchange to the production of rice, plantains, beans, corn, sweet potatoes, eggs, pork and cattle, as well as prioritising aquaculture and the national production of animal feed.

Speaking about Cuba’s once buoyant tourism sector, he appeared to suggest internal differences about how best to respond to the present crisis. The impact of “zero tourism” and the strengthening of the US embargo meant, that it would be necessary to discuss the issue with transparency “so that we all unite, adjust to reality” and impose solutions, he said.

The report indicated that the COVID-19 pandemic meant that the government would not be able to follow its normal bottom-up approach to developing next year’s Economic Plan and Budget.

Noting that the country “cannot abandon planning”, the report quoted Gil as saying that since “a vacuum cannot be created” it had been agreed that Government would issue a group of indications to start next year’s process. This, he said, would reflect a continuation of the adjustments made to the 2020 Plan. Gil was also reported as saying that “the fiscal deficit” in 2021 will be based on the projection of macroeconomic balances including “the real income potential of all sectors of the economy, including non-state forms of management; and the maintenance of restrictions on budgeted expenditures”.

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