Díaz-Canel: This economic plan requires rigor, discipline and control

Mar 6, 2020 by

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Photo: Estudios Revolución

The President of the Republic, Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, emphasized the premises that must guide the management of this year’s Economic Plan: “rigor, discipline and control,” adding, “We cannot admit any failure to meet projections with the excuse of fuel shortage.”

Heading the meeting of Cuba’s highest body of government, chaired by Prime Minister Manuel Marrero Cruz, Díaz-Canel stated that, given the tense situation generated by U.S. government aggression, we must do things differently, think differently, but we cannot renounce the plan.

We must erase, from our discourse, any justification of shortfalls based on lack of fuel, he said. This problem may continue and what we must do is focus on how we are going to meet objectives. This is the challenge facing those of us who lead.

“These are times when the example, austerity and dedication with which we conduct leadership processes provide the pennies and drops of fuel we don’t have today.”

In assessing the economy’s performance in the first month of 2020, Díaz-Canel noted that results are acceptable thus far – despite internal problems, the escalation of hostile U.S. policy and continuing efforts to prevent fuel from reaching the island.

On this subject, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy and Planning Alejandro Gil Fernandez presented a report to the country’s highest leadership body outlining economic indicators that characterized the month of January.

Exports, for example, grew as compared to the same period last year, while imports declined, “in line with the Plan,” he noted, adding, “Remember that for 2020 a decrease in imports was projected, not accompanied by a decline in the economy.” Among the best performing export items were tobacco and lobster.

During the first 30 days of the year, some 393,768 visitors from abroad arrived in the country, 99.5% of the number projected, while goals for domestic tourism were surpassed by 6.7%.

Among other statistics, Gil Fernandez reported that projections for production of steel and lumber were met, while only 94% of the cement planned was in fact produced.

In the food program, he stated, production of rice and eggs was in line with projections, while bean production reached only 64% of the tonnage planned.

During January, 1,629 homes were built to begin the second year of implementation of the national Housing Policy, having successfully met plans during the first year.

Gil Fernandez noted that during 2020 the country should have a more favorable situation in terms of availability of personal hygiene products, especially the more economical lines. Toward this end, and despite the country’s limitations, financing is assured for the purchase of raw materials needed to manufacture soap, toothpaste, detergent, and other high-demand products.

Likewise, steps are being taken to increase the participation of domestic industry in the supply of medium and higher-priced products, sold in hard currency retail stores, including air conditioners and televisions. At the same time, a contract is being negotiated to acquire bicycles and electric tricycles to be sold in these outlets.

Financing is also assured for BioCubaFarma, to alleviate to some extent the deficit of medicines, a situation that will not be solved overnight, he said.

AUTOMATION AND CARE FOR PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES:

TWO NEW POLICIES

During this session, Council of Ministers members approved two new policies: one for automation in Cuba and another to improve care and services provided to persons with disabilities, two issues of significant impact in the life of the nation.

Regarding the first, the Minister of Industries Eloy Álvarez Martínez explained, “The objective is to establish the direction of comprehensive development of automation in the country, which should contribute to safety and technical sovereignty, an improvement in quality of life in our society, increased efficiency, and growth in the Gross Domestic Product.”

The policy contains general principles on the ministry’s state responsibility for this strategic issue; the sustainability and development of automation; security in control systems; the development of domestic systems, products and services in this branch; and the preparation of human resources.

This basic outline will be followed by work to include the necessary elements for automation in national economic plans. At the same time, technical and vocational training in associated specialties will be restructured, to include the creation of industrial site learning centers that will contribute to improving students’ training.

Prime Minister Manuel Marrero Cruz insisted on the need for development in this arena to be conducted mostly at the national level, to achieve the technological sovereignty Cuba requires. Likewise, he said, automation should be linked to the process of computerization of society which the country has undertaken. The two issues will be assessed jointly and organizations and enterprises must ensure that their production processes are automated and computerized.

The Council of Ministers also considered reports on the improvement of care and services for persons with disabilities, the principles of which were explained by Marta Elena Feitó Cabrera, Minister of Labor and Social Security.

She noted that this is an issue to which the Cuban government has given its full support, as part of the Revolution’s social policy and our humanism. Specific objectives have been developed with the active participation of the National Association of the Blind (ANCI), the National Association of Persons with Physical and Motor Disabilities (ACLIFIM) and the Cuban National Association of the Deaf (ANSOC).

According to the design, she pointed out, future work will be directed toward the fundamental aspects of continuing to prioritize care of persons with some type of disability; the elimination of architectural and communication barriers; categorization of artistic talent; and support for high-performance para-athletes.

Although government and institutional work is decisive in achieving a more inclusive society, no less important is the role played in daily life by families, who are responsible for providing careful attention from an early age, with enormous responsibility for care and respect of persons with disabilities, Feitó Cabrera noted.

Prime Minister Manuel Marrero Cruz emphasized that this is a very important issue, given its sensitivity. He reiterated the Cuban government’s commitment to all persons with disabilities, which cannot, he added, replace the commitment of the families.

He insisted that priority must be given to eliminating architectural barriers and to more broadly promote the complementary addition of sign language and subtitling on television.

WATER FOR HAVANA

In 2019, 1,040 millimeters of rain fell in Havana, a number that represents 81% of the historic average for the period and qualified as the lowest in the last decade. This January saw rainfall of only 70% of the average and specialists at the Institute of Meteorology estimate that the pattern will continue until March.

This situation has caused a deficit of 1.75 liters per second in four of the capital’s water supply systems (the Almendares, Vento, Jaruco, Ariguanabo and Sur basins), with a consequent shortage of water and low pressure.

This was reported to the Council of Ministers by the president of the National Institute of Water Resources, Antonio Rodríguez, when he presented a strategy to confront the water situation in the city of Havana during this year’s dry period. At the moment, he said, some 333,000 persons are affected, most facing changes in availability schedules and distribution cycles. Some 51,000 are supplied water from tanker trucks.

During the 2018-2019 dry season, he recalled, more than one million were affected in Havana and some 500,000 were obliged to rely on water truck deliveries. Work on the distribution system carried out between 2012 and 2019 has allowed us to avoid such a serious situation now, Rodríguez stated.

He commented that an action plan is being implemented, to speed up maintenance of networks and conductors, efforts to reduce losses and increase the water supply, drilling of new wells, while limiting excessive consumption and encouraging conservation.

He clarified that the resources to complete these investment projects are in the country, some of domestic production and others imported.

During discussion of the issue, Deputy Prime Minister Inés María Chapman Waugh, emphasized the importance of stemming water losses, “from both conductors and by high-consumption users in Havana, including some that consume almost twice as much as they should, which affects the population, as well, she noted.

José Ramón Machado Ventura, second secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba Central Committee, commented that, just as important as increasing volume, opening new wells and acquiring new pumping equipment, is saving water. Much is lost from large conductors and leaky faucets, and wasted with irrigation practices like flooding. Domestic industry must participate much more in remedying this situation with its productions.

President Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez insisted that all water systems be interconnected to maintain supply when one fails; that efforts to increase potable water treatment capacity continue, along with studies on the possibility of linking small reservoirs near Havana, and increasing the participation of domestic industry in the repair and maintenance of pumping equipment.

He added that work must be done on the automation of Havana’s aqueduct, as well as the capital’s storm sewer and drainage system.

ACCOUNTS PAYABLE AND RECEIVABLE

Minister of Finance and Prices Meisi Bolaños Weiss reported on the status of overdue accounts receivable and payable at the end of December 2019, a matter that was systematically analyzed by the highest government body and generated a broad, critical debate.

The Minister pointed out that, although there was improvement in the total number of overdue accounts payable in relation to the same period in 2018, the same causes of non-payment seen in previous years continue to manifest themselves, associated fundamentally with debts owed provincial food wholesale suppliers and producers associated with the Food Industry Enterprise Group, by retail companies in the commerce and gastronomy sector, where one of the principal chains of overdue accounts exists.

This is an unresolved issue in the country, she said, and we cannot be satisfied with reducing the amounts that are overdue; we must continue to attack and confront with the utmost rigor the causes and conditions that generate this situation.

Among other aspects, she cited as an example the fact that violations of contracts persist, which are not controlled with the necessary rigor, nor is consistent follow-up conducted by responsible entities; and the reconciliation of debts between enterprises continues to be a pending task, a task not being completed in depth or systematically.

As a principle established by the government, the Minister of Finance and Prices reiterated that the State Budget will not finance losses caused by lack of control and theft.

After the debate on this agenda item, in which it was recognized that overdue accounts payable and receivable constitute one of the most serious and complex problems in the economy, the Prime Minister stated that in order to eradicate them, it is necessary to go to the base, to the provinces and municipalities, and confront the problem firmly where it originates.

President Díaz-Canel, for his part, indicated that the focus with which the matter is analyzed must change; the way control is exercised must change. We cannot admit losses in gastronomy; we must reconcile accounts and make deposits every day, he said.

We must confront theft, Diaz-Canel added, and this is a required, challenging task at the local level, which must be addressed immediately in a prioritized manner, along with the illegal sales that provide a market for products stolen from stores and state establishments. Everyone must take action against illegalities, he stated.

THE LAND REGISTRY, A VALUABLE TOOL

Later on the agenda, the president of Cuba’s Institute of Physical Planning, Samuel Rodiles Planas, presented a report on progress in implementing policies for the development of the national cadastre and strategies to computerize services and procedures which are the responsibility of the country’s Physical Planning system.

According to the report, once the Council of Ministers approved the Policy for the Development of the National Cadastre in March of 2014, the Institute of Physical Planning began work on actions planned, in accordance with projections defined in November of that year for the creation of the Urban Cadastre, which was scheduled for completion in 2021, to simplify and reduce timeframes for procedures needed by the population, including measurements and boundaries of dwellings.

Of the 611 urban human settlements existing at the end of 2019, he explained, 125 have been fully registered, with appropriate surveys and investigations completed.

Rodiles added that work will continue in 2020 to achieve significant improvement in services provided by Physical Planning to the population, which requires further computerization of procedures.

On this subject, Deputy Prime Minister Inés María Chapman Waugh stressed the importance of analyzing the issue in the Council of Ministers, since its impact affects other areas under discussion, including water and food production. She added that the national registry is also a valuable tool in efforts to order communities, both urban and rural.

INDUSTRY AND DOMESTIC COMMERCE, EXPORTS AND FOREIGN INVESTMENT

Also addressed during the February meeting were foreign investment, external credit and exports in industry and domestic commerce, both of which are prioritized in plans for the country’s sustainable development and have an immediate impact on the functioning of the economy.

According to Rodrigo Malmierca Díaz, minister of Foreign Trade and Investment, central enterprise management organizations affiliated with the Ministry of Domestic Commerce (Mincin) have approved negotiation directives for two joint ventures: one in the refrigerated food supply arena and another for the marketing of hardware and construction materials.

Industry is among priority sectors in national foreign investment policy and 24 such companies have been established, six in the Mariel Special Development Zone, while negotiations are underway for another 27.

In the area of external loans, the domestic commerce sector is working on identifying sources of financing, to guarantee development and the modernization of technological infrastructure.

Cuban industry has traditionally relied on foreign loans, and important investments financed in this way are currently underway, including modernization projects at the Ramón Peña enterprise, Antillana Steelworks and the Mechanical Combine, as well as facilities where the Cuban press is printed.

Industrial exports last year reached only 79% of the volume projected, mainly due to quality problems; delays in the export schedule; deficits of raw materials; lack of financing; instability of prices on the international market and strong foreign competition, Malmierca stated

This year, he reported, an increase in exports of goods and services related to the electronics industry and recycling of raw materials is expected.

STATE AND GOVERNMENT CADRE POLICY

The main problem with current cadre policy is not a question of numbers, but of a qualitative nature and, above all, related fundamentally to selection, ethical behavior, performance and the work that must carried out in the selection of promising youth.

This was the opinion expressed by Miguel Mario Cabrera Castellanos, head of the State and Government Cadre department, referring to statistical indicators of progress in this arena in 2019.

During his report, he cited aspects such as understaffing, women in management positions, the inclusion of black and mixed race professionals in management positions, and issues of age. With regard to the latter, he pointed out that there is a trend toward a progressive increase in the number of staff over the age of 50, reflecting current demographic trends in the country.

Referring to the mobility of cadres, he said that previously established pools of candidates for different positions are not always used. Also impacting the work is instability in economic, auditing and investment departments. Assistant directors, deputies and substitutes are not always appropriate candidates for promotion; while extended occupation of positions that can be considered transitory is common.

Cabrera additionally reported on professional development and training efforts designed for different management levels and improvement of the evaluation process, the results of which are not effectively used as a management tools.

President Díaz-Canel recalled that this is an issue that has been emphasized on several occasions by the First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba Central Committee, Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, and despite progress made, weaknesses in performance, implementation and results persists.

He emphasized that we must all maintain reserves of candidates for management positions, recruit the best and assign them tasks that allow for evaluation of their performance. This is an essential element to be taken into consideration when evaluating cadres,” he insisted, “It is critical to know how you are preparing reserves and how the cadre policy is being implemented in your respective entities.”

He also referred to work styles that must be promoted, which facilitate identifying colleagues with the most potential.

Concluding the meeting, the Prime Minister called for optimism in everything we do, in the difficult times we are living, as we learned from Fidel and Raúl.

The battle we are waging today, he said, is our Moncada, our Granma, our Sierra Maestra, and this battle is about knowing how to find alternatives and solutions to problems, based on the use of local resources.

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