The President of Cuba’s Councils of State and Ministers, Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, emphasizing the firm conviction to continue the construction of socialism, urged deputies in the National Assembly’s standing committee on Economic Affairs, to consider new ideas to move forward, despite the difficult situation caused by the United States government’s tightening of the blockade.
The country’s Gross Domestic Product rose in 2018 and this year’s forecast is based on that increase; thus meeting goals will require doing things right and seeking alternatives, exploiting all reserves.
"We are in a tight spot, but in a better position to assume other obligations and responsibilities," said the Cuban President and urged all economic actors to mobilize our capacity to overcome the obstacles that Washington is determined to create for the Revolution. “The beauty lies in taking on the challenges and overcoming them.”
He pointed out that recent measures adopted imply a change in the approved strategy, to adapt to the new conditions, mainly in the area of food production and distribution, insisting on efforts to conclude agreed-upon investments projects in this sector. "If we can make the agro-food sector more efficient, we can reduce a large percentage of imports."
He called for thinking with our own heads and listening to the voice of the people, considering initiatives to resolve problems and conflicts, and noted the role the non-state sector can play, as important actors in our society.
We must think as a country, generate ideas, and each of us contribute as best we can to achieve the economic progress we seek, the President said, reiterating that socialism is the only route to ending inequities, by planning distribution and protecting the most vulnerable sectors.
He called for work with intelligence, analytical skill, decency, and dignity, adding, "This is not time to surrender, but to find solutions for every problem".
Minister of Economy and Planning Alejandro Gil presented a report to the deputies on the performance of the national economy in the first half of the year, characterized by global tariff and financial tensions that impact the country. He pointed out that shortages of high demand products are being resolved, but national production must be defended; exports diversified and increased; imports replaced with domestic products; productive linkages developed; state enterprises promoted; food self-sufficiency and local development advanced; goals set by approved policy for housing met; and sciences put to use in the solution of problems.
To develop the 2020 economic plan, real production capacity and the requirements of national demand must be identified accurately, he said. Foreign investment must be incorporated as a fundamental part of the economy and progress must be made in developing productive and service linkages to replace imports, he emphasized, saying that work is needed on rational and efficient use of energy, and the elimination of theft and illegalities, among other objectives.
He called for efforts to resolve persisting difficulties, including outstanding accounts payable; organizational and supervision problems; as well as salary increases not based on improved productivity.
LEGISLATIVE WORK TO ALIGN LAWS WITH NEW CONSTITUTION
The significance of this National Assembly, to be marked by the approval of three new laws, was also highlighted by the Cuban President during discussion of the proposed Fisheries Law, in the Agriculture and Food Committee.
Deputies will vote on this law during this Third Period of Ordinary Sessions, as well as those addressing National Symbols and electoral procedures. This legislative task, the President noted, is required to develop laws that are consistent with country’s new Constitution.
Discussing the Fisheries Law, the President said, “This is a necessary law, an update was needed, with adjustments to current conditions in the country, and also to comply with agreements Cuba has on the international level.” He emphasized the need to include the private sector that is active in the fishing industry.
He stressed the importance of addressing issues such as scientific research, innovation, and productive linkages, while insisting on the need to further develop fish-farming and return to raising of a variety of species, to increase supply and quality.
The President also highlighted the democratic nature of the consultation process that took place to draft the bill, which was analyzed carefully in fishing communities, noting that the contributions of workers not only enriched the final version, but will also facilitate implementation, once the law is approved.
ELIMINATING BUREAUCRACY AND OBSTACLES IN HOUSNG PROGRAM
Deputies on the Industry, Construction, and Energy Committee analyzed the country’s housing program, described by President Díaz-Canel as fundamental, given its social impact.
He referred to the complex nature of the issue, and noted that government authorities are being held accountable to legislators for the implementation of approved policies, reflecting the seriousness and priority with which this effort is being undertaken, and likewise recalled that reviews of subsidies which deputies conducted led to questions that must be answered.
He noted that five provinces, Artemisa, Villa Clara, Holguín, Granma, and Santiago de Cuba, which must make a greater effort to meet projections, even though the pace of construction picked up in May and June.
President Díaz-Canel commented on the contribution academics could make I creating mechanisms to facilitate processes, while highlighting the advances now offered by computerization, that can also speed up procedures and provide better ways to work, organize, and plan.
Also participating in the discussion were Political Bureau members Esteban Lazo Hernández, National Assembly president, and Ramiro Valdés Menéndez, a vice president of the Councils of State and Ministers; as well as Inés María Chapman.
NUMBERS ON AN ESSENTIAL EFFORT
Vivian Rodríguez Salazar, general director for housing at the Ministry of Construction (Micons), said that, as of June 30, 15,252 homes, of the 32,899 planned for the year, have been completed.
She reported that the provinces with the greatest delays in all programs are: Artemisa, Villa Clara, Matanzas, and Granma.
Representative Alicia Alonso Becerra raised the need to review planning procedures, and make the process more realistic, since actual performance depends on various factors which must be taken into account when projecting figures.
Several presidents of Provincial Assemblies referred to steps taken in their territories to promote this program. Reinaldo García Zapata, president of the Havana provincial government, addressed the impact on housing of the January tornado in five of the capital’s municipalities, saying that all damage should be repaired and new housing completed by the end of September, taking into account the possibility of adapting underutilized buildings for housing and rebuilding dwellings in the same location they previously occupied.
AGRICULTURE: A KEY SECTOR
The importance of the agro-food sector was reaffirmed by Salvador Valdés Mesa, first vice president of the Councils of State and Ministers, before deputies on the Agriculture and Food Committee, which analyzed progress on investments projected in the 2019 Economic Plan.
Valdés Mesa praised the projects completed in Cienfuegos, mainly in port facilities, allowing for the transportation of raw materials, both imports for national industry and exports, pointing out that agreed-upon deadlines must be respected in order to meet the plan’s projections.
"Investments should be completed well," he insisted, and called for efforts to take maximum advantage of productive linkages, so that income from exports can be re-invested in production.
He explained that industrial plants are being built for the manufacture of animal feed using domestic raw materials, since increasing pork production is imperative, to supply national manufacturers of sausages and prepared meats for the population. He called for learning from experience gained in joint ventures, and extending these lessons to other industries in the country.
He spoke of the need for agricultural production to be incorporated within strategies for development of the food industry. He noted that the blockade has put constraints on the investment process by creating obstacles to the acquisition of necessary materials and financing. Given this, we must think about investments carefully and execute them well, to ensure that they are effective, he said.
The Vice President noted that, despite the obstacles, progress is being made on development plans with the greatest impact, such as the Mariel Special Development Zone, megaprojects for tourism and other sectors, which will constitute sources of income for the country in coming years.
In the report presented to deputies it was highlighted that, this year, investments of 91,747,120 pesos were approved for the agricultural-food sector, of which 16,610,000 are destined to modernizing technology, which should have a positive impact on production.
Other issues debated by the deputies in the standing committees were transportation; demographic policy; public services; education; sports; and defense, among other relevant issues.