Led by President Raúl Castro Ruz, Cuba's Council of Ministers met yesterday, June 27, and discussed a report presented by Minister of Economy and Planning, Marino Murillo Jorge, on the country's economic performance during the first half of 2016. The report was approved for its presentation to the upcoming session of the National Assembly of People's Power.
Murillo explained that despite existing limitations, efforts to increase productivity and replace imports with domestic products continue, while members of the Council of Ministers emphasized the need to eliminate unnecessary expenses, and take advantage of untapped opportunities for more savings and greater efficiency.
Lina Pedraza Rodríguez, minister of Finances and Prices presented the 2015 budget close-out report, which will also be submitted to the National Assembly for approval.
She indicated that budgeted activities were carried out in accordance with approved projections, with 54% of expenses concentrated in the areas of education, health, and social assistance.
Pedraza reported that funds allocated for subsidizing housing construction amounted to 1.1 billion pesos, of which 809 million was used to benefit more than 16,400 persons. She noted, however, that funds remained to be distributed at the end of the year, "indicating that provincial and municipal bodies must speed up this process."
According to her report, the fiscal deficit reached 5.55 billion pesos, below the limit approved, representing 6.1% of the Gross Domestic Product.
On this point, Gladys Bejerano Portela, comptroller general of the nation, explained that her office conducted some 100 reviews of the 2015 budget close-out process and the drafting of the 2016 proposal, noting that recommendations from 2014 had, for the most part, been incorporated and plans fulfilled.
It was noted that municipal administrations, which were audited for a second time because of previous shortcomings, demonstrated improved management of their bookkeeping systems, and were maintaining better control of budgeted resources.
Likewise, Bejerano indicated, the majority of provincial leadership bodies responsible for finances and prices played the role expected of them, consulting, supervising, and controlling the execution and close-out review of budgets.
She noted that the Ministry of Finances and Prices had improved its planning, execution, and supervisory mechanisms, despite limited human resources, and the complexities of structural changes taking place in the economy.
Addressing persistent problems, Bejerano cited shortcomings in the control of resources by state budgeted entities, especially at the community level, and emphasized the importance of improving the quality of analysis when the execution of budgets is reviewed by leadership bodies and workplace staff. She likewise noted the need to continue insisting on compliance with tax laws and payments.
ADDRESSING SOCIAL INDISCIPLINE, ILLEGALITIES & CORRUPTION
The Comptroller General presented a report on progress in addressing social indiscipline, illegalities, and cases of administrative corruption reported in 2015.
The analyses of criminal acts which took place in economic entities make clear, she said, that measures adopted thus far to reduce such behavior have not had the full impact desired, since an environment of impunity and the lack of control continue to predominate in some administrations.
These cases are concentrated in local level entities under municipal supervision, with the greatest incidence in commercial, agricultural, and food service activities.
She emphasized that elements contributing to such conduct include the existence of individuals who work together to violate the law and ethics, for personal gain or that of third parties; failures in internal auditing systems; lack of compliance with official duties; and the abuse of authority on the part of administrators and officials.
Also discussed by the Council of Ministers were efforts underway to combat and prevent illnesses spread by mosquitoes of the aedes genus.
Roberto Morales Ojeda, minister of Public Health, reported that the risk of Zika, dengue, and Chikungunya in the country is high, given the difficult epidemiological situation in the region, where serious mosquito infestations exist, and Cuba maintains a high level of collaboration and interaction.
"Following work done in the intensive phase, the mosquito infestation index has been reduced, and consequently the spreading of dengue, which earlier had been reported in 14 provinces and the Isle of Youth special municipality, but currently continues in only one municipality in Guantánamo. Moreover, thus far, not a single case of Chikungunya has been diagnosed", he said.
In terms of the Zika virus, he explained that vigilance measures in place have allowed for the detection of 22 imported cases and one autochthonous, with no evidence of its transmission in any of the country's provinces.
Morales commented that, within the population, awareness of the risks of these diseases has improved, with a consequent increase in participation in efforts undertaken in conjunction with community bodies and organizations.
Taking into account results of the recent intensive anti-vector campaign, and persistent environmental problems, Morales indicated that another round of measures were needed to protect gains achieved, especially given conditions generated during the summer rainy season that contribute to mosquito infestations.
The Minister emphasized the damage these diseases cause to human health, and the economic and political cost that a large scale epidemic would entail.
In this context, he referred to steps planned directed toward comprehensive action to reduce risk factors, to reach infestation indices that do not allow for the transmission of disease.
Morales concluded his report reiterating that prevention continues to be the country's principal tool against these infectious diseases, although even with systematic work on the part of health authorities in all provinces, it is not possible to eliminate mosquitoes without the populations' participation and that of local governments.