October 24, President Raúl Castro Ruz presided a Council of Ministers meeting which approved several new policies and measures to continue the updating of the country’s economic model. Among the issues analyzed were a portfolio of projects being presented to potential foreign investors; population aging; the functioning and authority of enterprise branch units; outstanding accounts receivable and payable; the state property registry; as well as Santiago de Cuba’s urban zoning plan. PORTFOLIO OF FOREIGN INVESTMENT OPTIONS Marino Murillo Jorge, head of the permanent commission on policy development and implementation and a Council vice president, presented the portfolio, describing the document as “essential to the process of attracting foreign capital,” adding that its development was a key milestone on the timeline established for implementation of the country’s new foreign investment law. He reported that the upcoming Havana International Trade Fair (FIHAV 2014) will have foreign investment as it central theme, with a focus on clarifying the new policy and regulatory framework. The portfolio approved during the meeting contains 246 projects the country would like to undertake with the support of foreign investment, amounting to some 8.7 billion dollars. Decisive sectors of the economy are represented, including food processing, construction, the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries and renewable energy, among others, according to Murillo, who added, “Projects are located in all provinces, and the Isle of Youth special municipality.” He said the portfolio is diverse and broad, including projects for which feasibility studies have been conducted, as well as guidelines for negotiations, which should expedite the process of establishing agreements. Rodrigo Malmierca Díaz, minister of Foreign Trade and Investment, emphasized the importance of continuing to develop the portfolio, and add new projects DEMOGRAPHIC TRENDS REQUIRE ATTENTION Another topic addressed during the meeting was the issue of demographic trends which are creating challenges, impacting the country’s social, economic and family life. Murillo Jorge, explained, “In the coming decades, Cuba will experience a decrease in population growth, with continuous aging, a lower birth rate and an increase in deaths. If these trends are not reversed, between 2025 and 2027, more people will die than are born, with a resultant reduction in the total population in all age groups, with the exception of that comprising those 60 years of age and over.” He recalled that among the factors which contribute to population aging are “low birth rates, a greater life expectancy, and emigration.” He emphasized that most decisive is low birth rate, a result of multiple factors including the high level of education attained by women and their extensive participation in the workforce; housing limitations; the high cost of providing for children; the lack of support services available to families; and the challenge of meeting the needs of aging relatives. Murillo clarified that the policies adopted will not have an immediate impact, but should do so in the medium and long term, saying, “Their principal objectives are to stimulate the birth rate, address the needs of a growing elderly population, as well as promoting full, efficient employment of those able to work.” He additionally announced the implementation of financial and pricing policies which should support parenting and better meet the needs of older adults. INDUSTRIAL PROPERTY Next, Leonardo Andollo Valdés, second in command on the policy implementation commission, presented a new Comprehensive Industrial Property Policy, which was approved by the Council of Ministers. He explained that it is based on no.228 of the Economic and Social Policy Guidelines approved in 2011 at the 6th Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba, which calls for strengthening the country’s capacity to explore prospects and safeguard Cuban-developed technology, along with the country’s industrial property protection policy, both within the country and in external markets. With the continuing updating of Cuba’s economic model, Andollo said, industrial property acquires new dimensions and greater importance in expanding exports; the replacement of imports with domestic products management tool; procuring investment, especially foreign investment; and the development of state enterprises and other forms of economic management. He indicated that a diagnostic studies conducted identified several problems which will be addressed, and concluded, “With the implementation of policy proposed, we will be in a better position to promote the country’s sustainable development.” IMPROVEMENTS AT MINISTRY OF FINANCES AND PRICES Andollo also reported on proposed changes at the Ministry of Finances and Prices, specifically to its Grupo Empresarial Caudal S.A., which provides professional services to the financial sector, especially insurance policies. Improvements are directed toward resolving difficulties and ensuring that a variety of quality services are provided, including “insurance, asset appraisals, audits, feasibility studies, advisement fundamentally in economic and management activities, with the goal of supporting the development of the state enterprise sector and non-state forms of management,” Andollo said, adding that the provision of these services will also facilitate the development of foreign investment in the country.