Díaz-Canel says economic performance must satisfy the Cuban people

Cuba’s President Miguel Díaz-Canel has told a meeting of the Council of Ministers that the main task government faces is to ensure that the country’s economic performance is to “the satisfaction of the Cuban people”.

Addressing a meeting to assess economic outcomes for 2018 and prospects for 2019, Díaz-Canel was reported by Granma as saying “We have to be more demanding in planning, which also implies reinforcing the structures responsible for economic affairs at all levels. It is urgent to form strong work teams that propose solutions and (which) study alternatives. We must take advantage of the talent of academics and researchers in economic matters and assess the proposals they make”.

In one of several recent indications that Cuba’s President intends delivering an informed data-led pragmatic approach to finding managed solutions to the economic problems that the country faces, he also stressed the importance of the country living within its means. In his reported remarks he said that Cuba must not assume financial commitments it is not able to honour in a timely manner and stressed the importance of there being a harmonious relationship between the non-state sector and state enterprises.

Cuban reports said that meeting participants heard that the Cuban economy is expected to show slight growth in 2018. Granma said that the Minister of Economy and Planning, Alejandro Gil, told ministers that the weak economic outcome had been caused by “a tense financial situation” influenced by less than anticipated revenues from “tourism, sugar production and medical services”. He noted that among the causes were deteriorating international relations, the strengthening of the US embargo, “the persecution of the financial sector” as a result of a regression in relations with the US, and weather events.

In his report he said that communications, trade, and telecommunications were among the best performing activities in Cuba’s planned economy, but the sugar industry, agriculture, construction and mines and quarries performed below the levels anticipated.

Despite recent provincial criticism of the construction ministry and public concern about housing, he said that the 2018 plan for housing was fulfilled with 29,000 houses being built “both through the State and through the population’s own efforts”.  He also referred to improvements in in mobile telephony and internet access.

Speaking about the coming year, Gil said that “a realistic and compliant plan has been created which guarantees development and growth, enhancing the use of internal reserves”. The Minister said that the focus in 2019 would be on priority programmes, basic services to the population and an improved retail supply of the main products in demand.

He also noted that a national priority is to increase export revenues and to manufacture finished products locally by upgrading domestic industries and encouraging the importation of intermediate goods, inputs or raw materials. Gil said that all future Cuban investments will be required to strictly comply with the terms on which financial resources are made available and must deliver the outputs envisaged. The minister also noted that the 2019 Plan envisaged greater resources being directed towards sectors such as energy, tourism, industry and agriculture.

In other presentations, the Deputy Minister of Finance and Prices, Meisi Bolaños, said that the preliminary draft of the state budget emphasised social outcomes and the “integral development” of locally delivered programmes at a provincial and municipal level. She said that as at present, 51% of the budget will go to the education and public health and suggested that more attention would be paid to pensions and to subsidies on the sale of construction materials, both matters of concern to many Cubans.

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