Cuba has announced a range of new economic policy measures aimed at reordering the management of its national economy in the light of the pressures placed on it by the COVID-19 virus.
In a television broadcast, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy and Planning, Alejandro Gil, said that new economic priorities will be established. These include:
- Ensuring the sustainability of all activities that support public health services;
- Giving priority to urban, suburban and family agriculture, and short cycle crops;
- Placing greater emphasis on agricultural production by maximising the resources available for fuels, fertilisers and foreign exchange;
- Providing the greatest possible material and financial resources to produce rice, bananas, beans, corn, eggs and pork and their distribution, with the most support being given to those producers able to obtain the best yields;
- Further adjusting fuel supply plans with the quotas currently assigned to activities paralysed by sanctions being allocated to agriculture and the sugar harvest;
- Greater emphasis being placed on self-consumption and local production;
- Allocating resources to meet the planned production of an identified range of products, principally soap,chlorine, medical oxygen and medicines;
- Increasing the supply of construction materials, such as cement and steel;
- Ensuring the continuity of certain strategic national investments, such as those linked to renewable energysources, the water supply, urban food supplies, and the production of cement;
- Calling a halt to new national investments; and
- Reducing and containing all budgeted expenditure.
In addition, several other measures aimed at reorienting the Cuban economy were announced. Among these are the reorientation of supplies destined for the now closed tourism sector while ensuring that all properties are maintained in order to receive visitors when the coronavirus threat is declared to have passed.
Other domestic measures include the reorganisation of public transport, the control and regulation of the sale in markets of food and hygiene products to ensure equitable access, the relocation of idle staff to productive enterprises where possible, and the maintenance of the ‘meal allowance’ for staff working remotely.
Speaking about the measures, Gil said that the pandemic’s effect on tourism had not only reduced the income it generates but also the demand from the Cuban sectors which supply it with goods and services. He also noted that Cuba was experiencing continuing difficulties in accessing sources of external financing and credit and said that the contraction in the world economy was being felt nationally in the state and non-state sectors, and through a decline in foreign investment.
“We are exposed, like the rest of the world, to an unforeseeable scenario to which we must respond with an organised strategy, not with improvisation, but with a set of measures and decisions that allow us to face this pandemic at the lowest economic cost possible and recover as soon as possible”, he told viewers of the live television programme Mesa Redonda.
Gil went on to say that because the duration of the coronavirus crisis is uncertain, Cuba must prepare as the impact on the economy will go beyond the disease. “There may be a lasting scenario and we have to prepare for it; look for solutions with the lowest economic cost and be able to recover as soon as possible “, he said. Consequently, Gil noted, it was Government’s intention to apply the new measures gradually.
He said, however, that Cuba had strengths. Apart from its free health system, its centrally planned economy meant that in a crisis, resources could be better allocated. He also noted that its budgetary sovereignty meant that Cuba was not “not accountable to any international organisation”. It also had an inclusive social policy that ensured no one was left behind. Gil also noted that Cuba’s experience of having spent more than 60 years “under siege” from the US had given the country the experience to adjust.
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