Ministers discuss new measures to address economic problems

Cuba’s Council of Ministers has been told that there must be “an objective, realistic, sustainable, achievable plan” implemented in a “coherent and sustainable” manner to address the challenges of a deteriorating economic situation.

Reports appearing in Cuba’s state media outlining the discussions that took place during a meeting held on 29 May suggested that a period of further austerity was likely. They also noted that new measures now being discussed informally by the executives of administrative bodies and ‘all entities across the nation’ would require ‘the understanding and support of all’. It was further noted that new guidelines would be required to address the problems now arising.

The meeting, which was chaired by President Díaz-Canel, reviewed the performance of the Cuban economy up to the end of April this year.

According to Granma, Cuba’s First Deputy Minister of Economy and Planning, Alejandro Gil, told the Council of Ministers that positive results had been seen in exports of rum, tobacco, lobster, shrimp, nickel, and steel, as well as in relation to priority investments linked to furniture manufacturing, Holguín’s textile industry, and a new International Hotel in Varadero. However, he made clear that significant ‘setbacks have occurred’ in relation to other investments because of ‘a lack of adequate training of those involved’. In this light, he stressed that it was essential that failing state projects ‘are recovered’ and don’t become a burden on the national economy.

Gil also mentioned that a lack of raw materials has affected manufacturing, but that by the end of April demand for consumer items such as soap and toothpaste and other manufactured items was being met.

On tourism, he said that this had been set back by the damage caused by Hurricane Irma and the tightening of travel restrictions on US citizens, but that the country had already received over 2m visitors by mid-May.

According to Granma, the Council of Ministers stressed that importing products was not a solution and that in the second half of the year the focus would be on finding responses using available resources and local products. It quoted the President as saying, “we must fulfil the 2018 Plan to the best of our ability.”

The Council of Ministers heard that in 2019 available funds would be used primarily to import supplies and raw materials to substitute for imported finished products. Priority investments to be guaranteed would be those linked to tourism; the Mariel Special Development Zone; rail transport; renewable energy; the updating of the national electricity system; expanding storage capacity; the water supply; and the expansion and modernisation of the cement industry.

Gil said that the new guidelines were aimed at creating “an objective, realistic, sustainable, achievable plan, which means adapting in accordance to our real possibilities, not assuming debts that we cannot repay on time, saving financial and material resources, reducing unnecessary expenses, without neglecting, where possible, priority development programmes already underway.”

Granma said that the meeting also received a report from the Comptroller General, Gladys Bejerano, on ‘administrative corruption’.  There had been, she said, ‘a lack of rigor in selecting cadres and the strict monitoring of the political and social conduct of managers, executives, and officials’. The report quoted President Díaz-Canel as stating: “We cannot live with this phenomenon, because it is an expression of the deterioration of our values.”

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