The intense working meeting held March 11, with presidents of Provincial and Municipal Assemblies of People’s Power from the entire country, and headed by Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, President of Cuba’s Councils of State and Ministers, focused on strengthening government work at the local level, while contributing to economic development and increasing citizen participation.
Upon summarizing the day, Díaz-Canel reiterated that the meeting’s objective was to strengthen working relations between the central government and local levels, as part of a plan that includes regular visits by central authorities to the provinces.
He emphasized that conditions must be created for more efficient public administration, which implies not only the availability of material resources, but also adequate work styles and organization; a cadre policy that promotes sensitivity and revolutionary concern, without bureaucratism, with collective spirit, and close ties with the grassroots.
“Amongst us all, we must develop a government that works for the people,” he reiterated.
Cadres who are not sensitive, do not take action, are bothered when people come to them with problems, the President said, calling for fewer obstacles and less bureaucracy, for continuing to prioritize attention to the population.
We must seek government action that is more transparent for the population, so they know what we’re doing, what the priorities are, what is directed toward development, or toward meeting their needs. This guarantees the people’s participation in decision making, he added.
In his comments, the President also emphasized aspects of the international situation, with a neoliberal, colonizing offensive underway, media manipulation, the proliferation of fake news, increasing confrontation, and U.S. persecution of the region’s nations, among them Cuba, now facing the potential implementation of Title III of the Helms-Burton Act.
Given this environment, the focus remains on the three priorities for government efforts expressed several months ago by Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, who placed preparation for defense and the economy at this level.
The other priority was the constitutional referendum, which was conducted and led to a victory, a reaffirmation of commitment to the Revolution by a majority of Cubans, the President noted, indicating that the economic battle continues to be the fundamental task at hand, the most complex, and that in which the people place the most hopes. To rise to the occasion, structures and management must be reinforced and support sought from the economic sciences.
Minister of Agriculture Gustavo Rodríguez Rollero presented an update on the municipal self-sufficiency program, generating a number of remarks on the issue, described as key to the country’s food security and sovereignty. The goal of producing 30 pounds of produce per inhabitant and five kilograms of animal protein, every month, has seen different levels of development, and is in need of greater yields and the diversification of crops.
Ricardo Cabrisas, a Council of Ministers vice president, pointed out that the substitution of imports with domestic products is also decisive, since Cuba annually devotes some 1.8 billion dollars to buy food on the international market, 30% of which is for animal feed.
Also raised during the discussion were intentionally trying out-of-season plantings; considering traditional crops; focusing on the needs of each province; specialization of cooperatives and individual producers; with particular attention to contracting, an issue emphasized by First Vice President Salvador Valdés Mesa.
Additionally reported during the meeting were results of large scale studies on high-protein plants begun by Comandante en Jefe Fidel Castro Ruz, which include research, development, innovation, production, and distribution of high impact products for the food, pharmaceutical, and cosmetic industries, and others that could become sources of income.
In this regard, Díaz-Canel referred to the need to promote this program, first, in honor of Fidel, who dedicated the last years of his life to demonstrate the viability, under our conditions, of these crops and productions, which are linked to various activities and sectors.
An exhaustive explanation of how to achieve adequate budget execution at the local level was presented by Meisi Bolaños, minister of Finances and Prices, who insisted on tighter control of financial resources; the importance of complying with tax law; and proper management, to eliminate deficits in revenues, which have been gradually reduced, but still affect 19 municipalities in four provinces.
She specified that, within local budgets, we must give better use to territorial tax collections, given what these funds mean to development at that level, not only in production and services, but also in the generation of jobs and their sustainability.When dealing with the subject of outstanding accounts receivable and payable, she emphasized the urgent need to transform the current situation in the chain of defaults, synonymous with lack of control and disorganization.
Several ongoing projects regarding electronic commerce, and others being planned, were reported by Minister of Domestic Commerce Betsy Díaz, who said that the main objective is to facilitate service and reduce the handling of cash in transactions, by both legal persons and individuals.Regarding the use of point-of-sale (POS) terminals (debit card readers), she spoke of the short-term extension of this modality in outlets selling construction materials, and in the retail network, with priority in Havana and Santiago de Cuba.Irma Martínez Castellón, minister-president of the Central Bank of Cuba, said that the functioning of POS must be demanded at sales points.Alejandro Gil, Minister of Economy and Planning, referred to local development programs, since, he said, given the current economic situation, solutions must be found as close as possible to the site of a problem.As of the end of December, 290 local development projects were underway across the country, mainly in commerce and gastronomy, the food industry, culture, local industry, tourism, and community services.Practically giving a methodological class on management of these types of projects, he stressed that those which have financing will always be immediately approved, calling on local authorities not to request resources from the national level and seek ways to self-finance.As has been emphasized on other occasions, he said local governments must involve universities and research centers in the conception and implementation of local development programs, a valid course of action for all activities that promote economic and social progress in the country, according to those in attendance.