For many, knowing that Cuba's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew 1.6% in 2017, and that the figure projected for 2018 is around 2%, means, at the least, that the rate is still far removed from that needed to move along the path to development. Specialists have repeatedly said that this requires sustained levels of growth above 5%.

Others, nonetheless, see these figures as simply "numbers," perhaps "small," not providing much basis for an evaluation, not aware that the GDP is "a macro-economic indicator that includes the country's total production of goods and services, measured according to their value, after deducting the intermediate consumption required for the process of production," as explained by Ricardo Cabrisas Ruiz, a Council of Ministers vice president and head of Economy and Planning.

"Its expression in current terms is based on the record of transactions at the year's real prices. Disregarding price changes, it is calculated in constant terms with the goal of evaluating growth in activity, taking as a reference the prices of a given year.

"Toward this end, GDP growth rates announced in the recently concluded National Assembly of People's Power are expressed in constant terms, that is, variations in prices are eliminated, allowing the actual performance of the economy to be described.

"The GDP is disaggregated by types of activities: agriculture, industry, construction, transportation, commerce, tourism, public health, education… There should be correspondence between the growth rates of different activities, since they are related to each other.

"If the economy were to grow without considering this principle, imbalances could be created that lead to wasting resources, among other aspects. Agricultural production, for example, is linked to industry, direct sales to the population, and exports. Transportation activity, to cite one case, must reflect these relations. Production to satisfy the direct needs of the population must be in step with other activities involved in the entire process.

"Growth in Cuba's GDP is often compared to that of other countries, noting important differences in some cases, but the balanced distribution of this wealth is not always acknowledged. In the majority of countries, extreme concentration of distribution exists, with a few enjoying that which many do not, even in terms of basic services such as health, education, and food.

It has been stated that the efficiency of the enterprise system continues to be a an issue which must be addressed in a differentiated manner. What strategies were implemented in 2017 to increase efficiency and thus guarantee the main activities that give the economy vitality?

As has been said, the current monetary environment does not favor the development of socialist state enterprises. Nevertheless, progress was made in autonomy and granting of authority.

Recently approved were four legal norms of greater scope that favor autonomy and contribute to improving the ways all Cuban enterprises operate. They also contribute to separating state functions from those of enterprises, which will continue to be done in an ordered, gradual process.

In accordance with these new norms, the Central Organizations of Enterprise Management (OSDE) carry out the role of direction and control of entities they include - without intervening in their operations, and strictly respecting their autonomy - and strengthened is the governing role of state agencies, which are not directly linked to the administration of the enterprise system.

Additionally, during the period, 28 Government Boards were created within the

OSDE. Their functions are mostly related to approving strategic projections, evaluating the appropriateness of enterprise plans, and demanding that basic commitments be met, in particular the origin and destiny of earnings, the distribution of which they must endorse. Likewise, every three months, they evaluate principal economic indicators.

In 2017, as on other occasions, the process of disaggregating the plan was not done in a satisfactory manner. What strategies have been implemented by the Ministry of Economy and Planning to avoid that this situation is repeated?

The disaggregation of the 2017 Plan was examined by all actors who participate in the process and shortcomings were identified, many of which have been seen before in previous processes.

Establishing the release of the 2018 Plan after the conclusion of the National Assembly of People's Power, facilitated the conditions, in terms of time and format, to conduct an adequate, quality process of disaggregation.

Meanwhile, this past December 11, the Ministry issued Resolution 444-2017, that governs the 2018 plan's disaggregation process, and explicitly defines the roles of all the economic actors involved.

The Resolution emphasizes that, from the highest leadership levels to subordinate bodies, the different categories used in the plan and the budget must match, so they may be used as effective management tools. The regulation established that the process must be competed by January 30, 2018.

Discussions on the plan and the budget, to be held with workers, must consider their execution with maximum efficiency in the use of material, human, and financial resources.

Conservation of fuel, strict adherence to consumption limits, and efficient management of operational inventories as assets in the plan, are priority elements to be addressed, among others.

Admonitions regarding the lack of objectivity in planning have been made frequently. In this context, what mechanisms need to be modified, or what measures taken, to prevent this problem from continuing to hurt the economy?

The lack of objectivity in planning stems from two problems, among other reasons, that we do not always start with a concrete evaluation of existing circumstances in the economy, or recognize the real possibilities of meeting the demands of different sectors of society.

At the same time, also present on occasion, is the failure to comply with established methodological norms and regulations.

It is a two-way, transversal process, that requires the attention of all economic actors, who must be capable of establishing a close relation between general aspects and those of each level.

There are factors that transcend the review of regulations, that are related to the economic and social model being updated. Consequently, the management system, of which planning is a part, is constantly being evaluated in accordance with the environment in which the economy is operating.

Under these principles, work is underway on tasks related to the National Sustainable Development Plan through 2030, in accordance with the foundations approved by the National Assembly of People's Power.

Significant 2017 figures:

GDP Estimated growth at constant prices: 1.6%

• Sectors of greatest impact
Tourism (up 4.4 %), Transport & communications (3,0 %), Agriculture (3.0 %), Construction (2.8 %)

• Impact of Hurricane Irma
Total damage: 13,000,185,000 pesos
More than 1,800,000 persons sheltered
More than 179,000 dwellings affected
More than 2,900 educational and healthcare facilities damaged
Serious damage to electrical, road, water, hotel, and telecommunications infrastructure
Agricultural losses of more than four billion pesos

• Estimated income to state budget: 57.2 billion pesos
More than 80% of contributions come from the state enterprise system
Taxes, fees, and contributions continue to grow and constitute 75% of al income

• Estimated fiscal deficit
11.725 billion pesos (11.4% of GDP)

• Investments: 90.8% completed

Water diversion: 90.1% completed
Program to recover refrigeration and freezing capacity: 56% completed
Program to produce bio-pesticides, bio-fertilizers, and bio-stimulants: 69% completed
Program to recover food process industry: 83% completed
Program to recover fuel storage capacity: 310,000 m3 completed of the 550,000 projected
Program to develop tourism in La Habana, Varadero, the Northern Keys, and Holguín: 87.5% completed
Renewable Energy Program: 90.1% completed
Modernization and expansion of Antillana steelworks
Housing program: Completion of 10,200 dwellings estimated, to surpass plan by 5%

• Economic Performance of key sectors
Cargo transportation: 94.6% of plan met
Passenger transportation: More than two billion passenger-trips provided, to surpass plan by 4.5%  
Water distribution system: Plan 100% met with the supply of more than 7.8 billion cubic meters of water
Renewable energy sources: 4.25% of electricity generated with these resources, while 4.65% was planned. Principal shortfall in Azcuba sugar mill bio-mass generation
Tourism: Visitor numbers estimated to be up 11.9% with the arrival of 4.7 million tourists, surpassing plan by 500,000