With the aim of offsetting the damage climate change could potentially cause in Cuba over the coming years, the Council of Ministers, in its most recent meeting, approved a State Plan to tackle this phenomenon, which according to Elba Rosa Pérez Montoya, minister of Science, Technology and Environment (Citma), “is worsening and will exacerbate environmental problems, making it a crucial factor for sustainable development.”
This plan was preceded by investigations on climate change undertaken by the Cuban Academy of Sciences since 1991, work on which began to intensify beginning in 2004, following a detailed analysis and debate on the negative consequences of Hurricanes Charley and Ivan on the east of the country.
At that point, regional danger, risk, and vulnerability studies began to be conducted in order to reduce the impact of natural disasters.
In 2007, scientific-technological research increased, leading to the creation of the 2050-2100 costal danger and vulnerabilities macro-project, overseen by the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment, with the participation of 16 institutions from five central state administration bodies. On February 25, 2011, the project was approved by the Council of Ministers.
More recently in 2015, with the coordination of Citma, a process was begun to update documents designed to combat climate change which had previously been approved by the Council of Ministers.
The plan approved this April 25, by the Council of Ministers, also known as Tarea Vida (Project Life), has greater scope and weight than the previous documents, and will be implemented in the context of an ongoing investment program over the short (through 2020), medium (2030), long (2050) and very long term (2100).
Pérez Montoya noted that priority areas have been identified, focused on protecting human life in the most vulnerable areas, food security and the development of tourism. These include the southern regions of the Provinces of Artemisa and Mayabeque; the northern coast of La Habana and its bay; the Mariel Special Development Zone; Varadero and its tourist corridor; the Keys off the coast of Villa Clara and to the north of Ciego de Ávila and Camagüey; Holguín’s northern coastline; the city of Santiago de Cuba and its bay; as well as areas threatened by rising sea levels in Cienfuegos, Manzanillo, Moa, Niquero, and Baracoa.
Data backed by scientific studies reveals that Cuba currently has an increasingly warm and more extreme climate, while significant variations in hurricane activity has also been observed. For example, from 2001 to date, the island has been affected by nine intense hurricanes, something never before seen in the country’s history. Rainfall patterns have also changed, with longer and more frequent droughts registered since 1960, while sea levels around Cuba are believed to have risen rapidly over the last five years.
Meanwhile, coastal flooding caused by rising sea levels and tidal surges due to hurricanes, cold fronts, and other extreme weather events, pose the greatest threat to the island given their impact on its natural environment and buildings.
Also assessed has been the overall damage to coast lines’ key protective elements, which include sandy beaches, wetlands - formed of forests, swampy marshes, and mangroves – and coral reefs, which act as barriers against the impact of tidal surges caused by natural phenomena.
The Tarea Vida proposal features a series of measures geared toward reducing the impact of natural weather events on vulnerable zones, such as prohibiting the construction of new homes in coastal settlements and reducing areas used for cultivation located close to the coast or to zones damaged by seawater intrusion into fresh water aquifers.
It also contains 11 key objectives, including ensuring the availability and efficient use of water in order to mitigate drought; guarantee maximum protection of soil and water through reforestation efforts; rehabilitate, conserve and prevent the deterioration of coral reefs; as well as implementing other measures through programs, plans, and projects linked to renewable energy, energy efficiency, food security, health, and tourism.
The Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment is responsible for implementing and managing initiatives outlined in the State Plan to respond to climate change. Meanwhile, actions to increase the populations’ awareness and knowledge around the issue and its associated risks, as well as their participation in combating the phenomena, were deemed of vital importance in such efforts.
The decision was made to present the plan to a forthcoming National Assembly session.
GUIDELINES FOR THE 2018 ECONOMIC PLAN AND STATE BUDGET
After a brief review of the performance of the National Economic Plan during the first four months of the year, Minister of Economy and Planning, Ricardo Cabrisas Ruiz, presented guideline proposals for the elaboration of the 2018 Economic Plan and State Budget, geared toward consolidating and ensuring the continuation and sustainability of that which was approved in the 2017 Plan.
According to the sector minister, prioritized will be “supporting production levels and investments linked to exports; import substitution; development and infrastructure programs; the demands of tourism; food production and imports; manufacturing more construction materials and increasing agricultural supplies; as well as ensuring education, health and basic services to the population.”
Cabrisas Ruiz stressed that the elaboration of the 2018 Plan must be distinguished by coherent and sustainable solutions in order to create a plan capable of ensuring the growth and maintenance of macroeconomic balances; the continuation of key development programs; and gradual progress toward transforming the country’s economic structure.
The key to this he noted, lies in the country’s ability to fulfill productive and service commitments, through efficient saving and readjusting expenditures to a level below those of the 2017 Plan.
Lastly, Cabrisas Ruiz reiterated that the 2018 Economic Plan must be elaborated with objectivity, and in accordance with the country’s resources.
ACCOUNTS PAYABLE & RECEIVABLE
Minister of Finance and Prices, Lina Pedraza Rodríguez, presented a periodic report on accounts payable and receivable rolling over from 2016; as well as a review of the situation regarding non-payment of taxes by organizations.
She noted that their continues to be a high concentration of outstanding debts among entities from a specific sector the economy, resulting in non-payment of taxes due to the failure of some entities’ to meet their economic contractual obligations and the lack of liquidity of others.
UNIVERSITY GRADUATE PLACEMENTS
Members of the Council of Ministers approved the proposal presented byMargarita González Fernández, minister of Labor and Social Security, regarding the placement of graduates from educational facilities affiliated with the Ministry of Higher Education for the 2016-2017 academic year.
She explained that taken into consideration when drawing up the proposal were the demands presented by central state administration organizations, provincial administration councils, and regional tallies of qualified personnel for the period 2017-2021.
Following discussion regarding the insufficient demand for higher education graduates, it was decided to conduct a new analysis in every organization, to determine the real needs for qualified personnel.
FOREIGN TRADE IRREGULARITIES
Economic difficulties caused by irregularities in Cuba’s foreign trade operations were once again addressed during the Council of Ministers meeting, this time regarding problems reported or identified in 2016.
Rodrigo Malmierca Diaz, minister of Foreign Trade and Investment, presented various examples of problems caused by delays in processing claims for missing cargo arriving to the country, deficiencies in meeting quality parameters, and contractual obligations for both imports and exports.
Regarding problems related to domestic transportation and ports, he highlighted the continuation of shortcomings caused by delays unloading and transferring cargo, thus emphasizing the importance better training personnel responsible for carrying out such operations and working harder to ensure that standards and norms are met.
In this sense, Malmierca Diaz highlighted the importance of perfecting work methods toward identifying and addressing the root causes of problems, in order to resolve them.
11TH NATIONAL INTERNAL CONTROL AUDIT
Gladys Berejan Portela, comptroller general presented a summary of the results of the 11th National Internal Control Audit, undertaken at the end of 2016, during which the implementation, progress, and impact of decentralizing authority approved for the state enterprise sector and the functioning of non-agricultural cooperatives, were evaluated.
She explained that slight progress is being made in the decentralization of decision making, noting that “Overall, the state enterprise entities that were audited are complying with the Ministry of Economy and Planning’s methodological recommendations for the elaboration and implementation of the 2016 Plan, although shortcomings were identified, such as the failure to comply with legal indications related to this process.”
The Comptroller General also stressed the need to continue working to adequately train managers and workers, given a lack of awareness, in some cases, over current legislation related to wage systems.
She also reported shortcomings in the implementation of recommendations at a managerial level; administrative control violations; high numbers of idle or slow moving inventories, due to inefficient management.
Regarding non-agricultural cooperatives, the Comptroller highlighted that the results of audits revealed the need to update legislation in accordance with practical experiences in this sector.
URBAN AND LAND USE MANAGEMENT
Also presented during the Council of Ministers meeting were results from the Plan to address illegalities related to urban and land use management in 2016, during which slight overall progress was seen.
Samuel Rodiles Planas, president of the Physical Planning Institute, reported that better results than those seen in past years were recorded, highlighting progress made in the management of beaches.
Nonetheless, he noted shortcomings in efforts to combat illegalities rolling over from previous years, and the need for greater rigor and systematic work by governments, central state administration bodies and high level enterprise management, in this regard.
Meanwhile, he also emphasized the low number of fines being issued and delays in carrying out demolitions approved by municipal administration councils.
Rodiles Planas went on to highlight the importance of the participation of both the entire population, all social and mass organizations, to ensuring order and discipline.
Reporting on new urban planning violations, some of which are committed by state institutions, he noted that the state must first set the example if it is to demand the same of the population.