The President of Cuba’s Councils of State and Ministers, Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, reiterated during a recent Council of Ministers meeting that the Revolution’s main task continues to be the economic battle, given the impact it has on the Cuban people’s wellbeing.
We must be more rigorous in our planning, which means reinforcing bodies charged with responsibility for economic affairs at all levels. It is imperative to create strong work teams to propose solutions and study alternatives. We must take advantage of the talent of academics and researchers in the area of economics and consider the proposals they make, Díaz-Canel stated.
He also emphasized the role of state enterprises and their harmonious relations with the non-state sector, which has been defined as complementary to the economy and needs to be provided a legal framework.
He reiterated the relevance of concepts emphasized by the Communist Party of Cuba Central Committee’s First Secretary, Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, about not spending more than we have as income, and not assuming commitments that we are not able to honor on time.
2019 ECONOMIC PLAN
As of the close of 2018, estimates indicate that the Cuban economy experienced slight growth, according to the Minister of Economy and Planning, Alejandro Gil Fernández, who during the meeting reported that commerce, telecommunications, manufacturing, public health, and social services were among the best performing sectors, while others such as the sugar industry, agriculture, construction, and mining did not meet projections.
The economic situation this year, he said, has been determined by a tense financial situation, affected by shortfalls in export revenue from activities such as tourism, sugar production, and medical services, linked in many cases to the effects of extreme weather events.
Added to this is an adverse international context, marked by the tightening of the blockade, in particular heightened financial persecution, as a result of the setback in relations between Cuba and the United States
Amidst these tensions, he stated, the Cuban economy did not contract, and, for example, the housing construction plan was met with more than 29,000 dwellings completed as the year ends, as a result of both government programs and individual efforts by the population.
Likewise, he reported, communications services, including cellular phone lines and internet access, increased.
The Minister said that for 2019, “a realistic, achievable plan,” has been developed, “that guarantees development and growth, strengthening the utilization of internal reserves,” with a focus on support for prioritized services for the population, maintaining supplies of basic products, and a greater variety of product lines in retail stores.
Increasing income from exports and strengthening domestic industry are a priority, he stated, with a view toward replacing imports of finished goods via the the importing of intermediate resources, supplies, and materials to take better advantage of the country’s internal capacity.
Another front of prioritized attention is strict adherence to investment project plans and timelines, to guarantee that financial resources are recuperated and projected benefits obtained, as soon as possible.
The proposed 2019 Economic Plan ensures the availability of resources aimed at increasing production and development programs in sectors such as energy, tourism, industry, and agriculture.The Minister stressed that next year’s Plan reflects the basic premises of not taking on more debt than we are capable of repaying; assuring Gross Domestic Product growth; and moving forward with development efforts.
Next on the meeting’s agenda, Meisi Bolaños Weiss, deputy minister of Finances and Prices, presented an estimated balance sheet of the 2018 State Budget, which indicates that planned gross revenue will be surpassed.
She then presented a draft proposal for the 2019 budget, based on the principle of maintaining its social character, supporting social policies and comprehensive development programs in provinces and municipalities.
She assured that similar funding, with respect to the 2018 estimate, is to be maintained for state-supported activities, guaranteeing basic services to the population with special attention to Education and Public Health, to which 51% of the budget is directed.Bolaños stressed that the state budget provides funds for important benefits such as pensions and social security; as well as programs addressing the country’s changing demographics; subsidies for construction materials; and Tarea Vida, responding to challenges posed by climate change.
Referring to allocations to support non-budgeted activities, she emphasized efforts to promote greater efficiency and rational use of resources in the state enterprise sector and the need to eliminate the practice of planning expenditures with extra margins.
She noted that to achieve projections in a strict, efficient manner requires all actors in the economy to use their reserves and generate greater contributions to the budget, exercising greater control over the destination and rational use of funds.
Reporting next was María del Carmen Pérez Hernández, general director of the Sierra Maestra Science, Technology, and Innovation Center, who explained that the staff is continuing projects which the Comandante en Jefe developed during the last years of his life, focused on investigation, development, production, and distribution of products for the agro-industrial, pharmaceutical, and cosmetic industries, among others.
She pointed out that, based on a design by Fidel himself, the center works under the principle of consolidating research results and production of experimental items, to maintain a closed cycle, on the basis of which it is possible to implement a program of productive and commercial development.
The development of scientific projects, she said, includes all of the country’s ministries and leaders of Cuban scientific institutions, indicating that the entity takes advantage of all the scientific-technological ability created by the Revolution to ensure greater and better advances in these projects, which include Moringa as a nutritional supplement; alternative animal feeds with high-protein content; silk making; the production of raw materials for the concentrate industry; and Sacha Inchi. Several of these products were displayed at the meeting.
President Díaz-Canel reiterated the priority given these projects and stressed, “Giving continuity to the Comandante en Jefe’s ideas has allowed for the processing of raw materials and obtaining products that can replace imports, as well as the small-scale fabrication of other new products.”