Cuba continues to face shortfalls in the availability of hard currency because of a decline in exports and difficulties with the supply of fuel. This was one the principal conclusions reached at the first meeting of Cuba’s Council of Ministers to be chaired by the country’s new President, Miguel Díaz-Canel.
Reports of the outcome of the meeting in the Party paper, Granma, said that although 90% of the country’s investment targets for the first three months of 2018 had been met and the country was meeting demand for most manufactured items, Cuba continued to face problems with meeting planned export targets.
The publication reported that among the problems leading to the investment shortfall was the failure of imported supplies to arrive; a lack of available construction workers; and bureaucratic failures that had slowed the investment process and project implementation.
When it came to manufacturing, the Council of Ministers heard most domestic consumer requirements were being met in relation to soap, toothpaste, perfumery, and cosmetics and more generally for medical packaging, polypropylene sacks, and furniture. However, delays in the supply of raw materials for sanitary pads, a politically sensitive issue, is only expected to stabilise in May.
It was also confirmed the severe drought of 2017, followed by Hurricane Irma and then heavy rainfall during the 2017/18 sugar campaign had had a negative impact on sugar production (Background, Cuba Briefing March 12, 2018).
In response to serious concerns about some export related enterprises, Granma quoted President Díaz-Canel as stating that the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Investment (Mincex) must strengthen its control over international operations that affect the economy negatively, which he said in some cases had become the focus of criminal proceedings.
Invoking remarks made previously by Cuba’s former President Raul Castro, he said such acts must be addressed with rigor as the image and prestige of the country was at stake. He also said that it would be necessary for the entities responsible to explain the related events in detail at the highest levels of government so that lessons could be learned.
Granma reported that President Díaz-Canel recognised that salaries paid to graduates are ‘a real problem’ as is job satisfaction. He said that graduates need to be more involved in decision making where they work if they are to feel committed and not to leave.
He was also reported to have emphasised that the way in which graduates are placed in enterprises must change, so that the skills each employer requires, and the wishes of young people beginning their careers, are recognised.
The meeting heard that the largest number of overdue accounts payable and receivable were concentrated in the central administrative groups in the sugar, agriculture and cattle industries, along with the Cuban railway system and the retail commercial enterprises supervised by provincial administrations in Artemisa, Camagüey, Santiago de Cuba, and Havana.
Other issues discussed included:
- The lack of resources to eliminate infringements of zoning and land use regulations. Granma reported that problems include a failure to meet construction regulations; the building and relocation of dwellings without documentation; the illegal occupation of land; and businesses conducted by self-employed workers in areas where they are not authorised. It was agreed that the approval of a national housing policy should contribute to resolving such issues.
- Unmet national needs for graduates in economics and the law, and a failure by some enterprises and agencies to offer employment to intermediate level technicians and skilled workers.
- Continuing problems with enterprises holding over large inventory, poor credit and debit control; poor control of fuel; and irregular payments to self-employed workers, despite more generally an effective use of auditing.
The membership of a new Council of Ministers will be agreed when the Cuban National Assembly meets in July.
This is an extract from the Caribbean Council’s weekly editorially independent publication, Cuba Briefing, which provides in depth information on current economic, political and commercial developments in Cuba and news on events in Europe and the US that affect the region. Business people, academics, and those with a general interest in Cuba find it an invaluable tool for developing and maintaining knowledge and providing an insight into political, economic and commercial events in the region
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