With Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, President of the Councils of State and Ministers on hand, the 10th period of ordinary sessions of the National Assembly of People’s Power 8th Legislature was held December 21.
At the beginning of the plenary session, the President of Cuba’s parliament, Esteban Lazo Hernández, requested a moment of silence in memory of three recently deceased deputies, Armando Hart Dávalos, Adolfo Rodríguez Nodals, and Perfecto Jesús Hernández Moltalvo, and recalled their commendable work.
He recalled that commemorations are taking place this time of year for the first anniversary of Fidel’s death, a timely opportunity to reaffirm our support for his concept of Revolution, a succinct expression of his leadership and political brilliance, in which the people’s unity is emphasized as an essential element to sustain our freedom, he said.
Lazo noted that, during the recent period, work has been focused on improving the functioning of local bodies of People’s Power and supervision of the process underway to implement approved Policy Guidelines.
During the last six months, he said, commissions have completed supervisory tasks in accordance with the timelines established, making 73 visits to municipalities to verify progress in executing the year’s Economic Plan and check that State Budget allocations were being used as approved.
He emphasized the value of seven public hearings held in workplaces and educational centers to discuss the impact of the blockade with the people.
Particular attention, he said, has been paid to the concerns of voters, noting that during this legislature’s term 2,226,000 statements have been recorded, 86% of which have been addressed, while ties have been strengthened.
The National Assembly President indicated that 68 issues were discussed in working commission meetings over the last few days, and 58 agreements reached on the basis of the analyses conducted.
During the plenary session, presented were preliminary results of the 2017 Economic Plan and the proposal for 2018, while the 2018 State Budget was approved. Deputies likewise received information on progress in implementation of Guidelines and heard accountability reports from the People’s Supreme Court and the Attorney General’s Office.
A vote was also taken to approve the designation of 2018 as “Year 60 of the Revolution.”
TERMS EXTENDED FOR PROVINCIAL AND NATIONAL ASSEMBLIES
The Council of State proposed to the National Assembly that the terms in office of delegates to Provincial Assemblies of People’s Power be extended to
March 25, 2018, and that those of deputies to the National Assembly until April 19, when the new Council of State will be elected, along with its President and Vice Presidents.
The proposal was made given that this past September 18, the date initially set for the election of delegates to Municipal Assemblies was modified, due to the severe damage caused by Hurricane Irma across the country, Homero Acosta, Council of State secretary, explained.
Postponing these elections, he stated, affected subsequent stages of the general elections, leading directly to the need to extend the terms in office of representatives at the provincial and national level.
The decision was made in accordance with the Constitution of the Republic’s Articles 72 and 111, which establish five year terms for deputies to the National Assembly, which may only be extended by a vote of the body, in case of war or exceptional circumstances.
The need to readjust the rest of the election timeline for subsequent stages was based, in fact, on the exceptional situation created by the serious consequences of Hurricane Irma.
Thus the Constitutional and Legal Affairs Commission considered the extension proposal and suggested its approval to the plenary, given the exceptional nature of events and in accordance with the law. The commission’s president, José Luis Toledo Santander, stated that initiating the incoming legislature on February 24, 2018, would be next to impossible, given the situation.
During the December 21 session, deputies additionally discussed reports on strategic projections for three key sectors of the economy: foreign investment, construction, and energy.
Minister of Energy and Mining Alfredo López Valdés referred to serious concerns about the misappropriation of gasoline, saying that measures have been adopted to address the problem, including the systematic check of unregulated sales of diesel, and strict, timely control by all enterprises and budgeted entities of their gasoline allocations.
Referring to the generation of electricity, López indicated that the country’s policy of promoting the use of renewable resources, to reach 24% of the national demand by 2030, requires financing, stating that sugar cane biomass represents 14% of the electricity to be generated this way, while 25 mills need credit for the installation of power plants.
He added that the national electricity company has established remote reading of meters for a significant number of the country’s principal consumers, a process that is being used and can be improved.
René Mesa Villafaña, minister of Construction, stated that of the country’s more than three million dwellings, 149,000 are in poor condition, while more than a million considered in good shape have light roofing.
Hurricane recovery work is being carried out at the provincial, municipal, and neighborhood levels, and People’s Councils with the greatest number of damaged homes have received differentiated support, he reported.
He emphasized that work has been carried out in accordance with a commitment to providing dignified, durable homes, all with bathrooms and concrete floors; also noting that in many places, building materials are being produced as close as possible to affected areas.
The minister reported that a catalogue was compiled of all the different housing designs used, and sent to all provinces, with a view toward creating more than 556 mini-factories to produce needed materials. Some 23, erected in the wake of Hurricane Matthew in 2016, are currently operating.
Mesa noted the increase in subsidies provided low income families to build a basic housing unit, although the demand is still greater that what can be offered, he said, insisting on the importance of provinces restructuring their work in this area.
Referring to prospects for foreign investment in housing construction, Rodrigo Malmierca Díaz, minister of Foreign Trade and Investment, explained that although no such project has been approved, several related to the production of construction materials are proposed.
He reviewed principles guiding the policy of foreign investment in the country and updated deputies on the 456 projects offered in the Portfolio of Opportunities, which are distributed throughout all provinces, in all sectors of the economy.
Malmierca reiterated the negative impact of the blockade; the double currency and exchange rate; liquidity problems; as well as shortcoming related to unnecessary delays and the inadequate training of some Cuban entities’ negotiating teams. Given the situation, he said, work is being done on better training and proposals to speed up the negotiation process, in particular.