On May 29, Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, chaired a Council of Ministers meeting during which the performance of the national economy through April, and guidelines for the 2019 Economic Plan and State Budget were reviewed.
The agenda also included issues linked to administrative corruption and the economic potential of the Union of Military Industries.
PERFORMANCE OF THE CUBAN ECONOMY THROUGH APRIL 2018
First Deputy Minister of Economy and Planning, Alejandro Gil Fernández, reported on the performance of the Cuban economy through April.
Among other issues, he noted that to date positive results have been seen in exports such as rum, tobacco, lobster, shrimp, nickel, and steel; while various priority investments were reviewed, including those linked to the furniture manufacturing sector; the modernization and expansion of Holguín’s textile industry, better management of fuel supplies, and the construction of a new International Hotel in Varadero.
Although such investments are advancing well, according to the minister, setbacks have occurred, demonstrating, in some cases, a lack of adequate training of those involved in such processes. “It is vital to overcome shortcomings and ensure that investments are recovered and don’t detract from the national economy,” stated Gil Fernández.
The Cuban official went on to report that a lack of raw materials has affected the performance of the manufacturing industry, but that by the end of April the production of key items such as soap, toothpaste, perfume, tin cans, irrigation systems, and liquid gas canisters, among others, has been guaranteed.
Regarding tourism he noted that although facilities damaged by Hurricane Irma were repaired and reopened before the start of the high season, the country’s key tourist markets were affected. The tightening of travel restrictions on U.S. citizens wanting to visit the island has also had an impact, although the country had already received over two million visitors by May.
Finally Gil Fernández explained, “Looking to the second half of the year we must focus resources where they are most needed and find solutions using available resources and local products. We cannot think that the solution to shortcomings in national production is imports.”
In this regard Díaz-Canel stressed that “in the midst of problems, also caused by damages from the recent heavy rains, we must fulfill the 2018 Plan to the best of our ability.”
COMPREHENSIVE MODEL & GUIDELINES FOR THE 2019 ECONOMIC PLAN & STATE BUDGET
Gil Fernández also presented guidelines for the drafting of a comprehensive model to be used in the creation of the 2019 Plan, with the aim of ensuring the sustainability of goals approved this year.
These include repairs to damage caused by Hurricane Irma and Matthew, as well as support at all levels of this activity, making the most of production capacities and redirecting available funds to import supplies and raw materials for national production, in order to substitute imports of finished products.
To this must be added guaranteeing priority investments such as those linked to tourism; the Mariel Special Development Zone; railway transport; renewable energy; the updating of the National Electricity System; expanding storage capacity; water supply programs; and the expansion and modernization of the cement industry - all of which are designed to contribute to the country’s development.
He noted that the guidelines are geared toward creating “an objective, realistic, sustainable, achievable plan, which means adapting in accordance to our real possibilities, not assuming debts that we cannot repay on time, saving financial and material resources, reducing unnecessary expenses, without neglecting, where possible, priority development programs already underway.”
The 2019 plan will be characterized by the search for coherent and sustainable solutions to the tensions which exist, noted Gil Fernández.
During discussions on the guidelines for the drafting of the plan, Alfredo López Valdés, minister of Energy and Mines, noted the importance energy-saving measures.
He went on to explain that by 2019 more power will be generated through solar energy, while three bio-electric plants and two wind farms should be completed and producing electricity by 2020. “This shows the extent to which the country is prioritizing renewable sources of energy,” he stated.
Minister of Industry, Salvador Pardo Cruz, meanwhile spoke about guidelines for the sector regarding the importance of ensuring the full exploitation of the country’s industrial potential in order to replace imports of finished products, guarantee exports and services to the population, tourism and domestic market, as well as more efficient stock management.
Likewise, Minister of Finance and Prices Lina Pedraza Rodríguez warned that “Next year we cannot continue to self-impose restraints on our potential to contribute to the State Budget.”
Meanwhile, Elba Rosa Pérez Montoya, minister of Science, Technology and the Environment called for the plan to support the use of science and technology. She stated that not to do so would seem like a contradiction especially in light of efforts to save financial and material resources, noting that many of the country’s problems can be solved by science.
The minister noted that the plan must also include measures to combat climate change which is already a reality for the country.
The Cuban President stressed, “We are proposing specific guidelines, which implies a process of planning, organization by organization, entity by entity. We must be conscious and work to ensure that the plan we approve is comprehensive and clear, for which the understanding and support of all is needed.”
Executives of central state administration bodies and all entities across the nation are conducting thorough informal discussions on all these economic issues, noted the Cuban President.
The Council of Minister discussed administrative corruption in the country, a harmful phenomenon with negative economic and moral consequences.
Comptroller General of the Republic, Gladys Bejerano Portela, reported that shortcomings in personal conduct and gaps in systems of control were identified as the main causes of corruption, in all cases reviewed.
In this sense, Bejerano highlighted a lack of rigor in selecting cadres and the strict monitoring of the political and social conduct of managers, executives, and officials, as well as a failure to conduct a timely analysis of the opinions and suggestions of workers in regards to the issue.
Díaz-Canel reiterated something that has been stated by First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba Army General Raúl Castro Ruz on numerous occasions, that the number one enemy of the Revolution is precisely, corruption. We cannot live with this phenomenon, because it is an expression of the deterioration of our values, of tolerance and impunity,” he stated.
UNION OF MILITARY INDUSTRIES
The last item on the Council of Ministers’ agenda was the economic potential of the Union of Military Industries (UIM) – created in 1988 – and how it can help meet the needs of the national economy.
UIM director, Brigadier General Israel Cervantes Tablada, reported on the performance of the industrial complex responsible for the repair, manufacture, modernization, and development of military technology.
The complex currently produces parts, pieces, and components for automotive transport, undertakes the repair and updating of machinery and tools, manufactures various types of plastic packaging and wrapping, as well as LED lights and metal roofing.
Well received among the Cuban population, these entities also manufacture hygiene products, kitchen items, furniture, plastic and wooden doors, as well as water tanks.
Díaz-Canel noted that the issue was included on the agenda in order to make ministers aware of the economic potential of the Union of Military Industries, as there are those who, through a lack of knowledge, import products of the same or inferior quality to those produced in the country by these entities, in which Cubans’ capacity for innovation, intelligence, and training is put to the test every day.