“Next year, the Cuban economy will continue to progress despite the blockade, external financial restrictions and the international situation,” asserted Minister of the Economy Marino Murillo Jorge, during a November 28 Council of Ministers meeting, presided by President Raúl Castro Ruz.

The 2015 Economic Plan, Murillo reported, is fundamentally focused on maximizing efficiency; directing resources toward the recovery of basic sectors such as manufacturing; expanding investment in production and infrastructure; and maintaining social services at current levels. According to the Ministry’s estimates, growth in the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) for 2014 will be 1.3%, well below than the predicted 2.2%.

The sugar and manufacturing industries’ failure to meet projections had a significant impact on economic growth, Murillo said, “Growth in the GDP for 2015 is projected as just above 4%, with which we return to previous modest rates,” he reported, with the greatest growth in manufacturing, construction, commerce, agriculture, livestock and forestry. Projected for next year is an expenditure of 2.194 billion dollars to import food, 137 million more than in 2014, with greater imports of flour, soy beans, wheat and seed potatoes.

On the other hand, purchases abroad of rice, beans and corn will be reduced, given the greater volumes being produced domestically. The 2015 Plan projects the availability of adequate energy resources to meet the economy’s needs, without reducing domestic consumption, and the use of renewable resources to generate electricity should reach 4.6% of the total. In regards to investment, Murillo reported that 7.159 billion pesos are projected, 1.59 billion more than in 2014, saying, “Investments in production represent 57.1% [of the total], and 17.7% for infrastructure.”

Retail sales increased, while the restructuring of the wholesale market with selected enterprises will continue, he said. The Minister explained that, at the close of 2014, employment stands at 2% above the projected rate, fundamentally a result of an increase in the non-state sectors.

Salaries increased 9.1%, reflecting raises approved for athletes and medical professionals, as well as in sectors benefiting from foreign investment, during the last months of the year. Employment trends in 2015 are projected to be similar to this year’s, with the percentage of jobs in the state sector declining 2.6 %, while non-state employment should increase 7.4 %, principally as a result of state restaurant and service facilities being transferred to cooperative management. 2015 STATE BUDGET As 2014 draws to a close, as is customary this time of year, the state budget for the coming period was presented to the Council of Ministers, and approved for submission to the National Assembly, where it will be considered during the month of December.

Lina Pedraza Rodríguez, minister of Finances and Prices, reported that a deficit in this year’s budget of 3.406 billion pesos is expected, lower than the legally established limit. Among the principal projections for 2015 are an estimated 6% increase in income, and 10% in expenditures, for a deficit of 5.563 billion pesos, she said. In 2015, measures will be implemented to strengthen enforcement of economic regulations, related to such issues as under-reporting of income on the part of self-employed workers, in sales, services, and especially housing rentals; misrepresentation of the number of workers employed by a private party; evasion of taxes on land transportation; and illegal economic activity.

Additionally, the Minister reported, policies providing financial benefits to increase productivity and efficiency in state enterprises will continue, noting that these have led to a significant decrease in budget expenditures required to cover losses.

Pedraza Rodríguez also reported that in accordance with the timeline established for implementation of new tax laws, a 2% tax on wholesale transactions will be levied in 2015, and provisions for local development taxes will be extended to all provinces.