Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Cuban President Raul Castro Ruz Says 'We Cannot Co-exist With Impunity'

Havana. March 2, 2012

We cannot co-exist with impunity

President Raúl Castro Ruz emphasizes during expanded meeting of the Council of Ministers

Yaima Puig Meneses

THE meeting of the Council of Ministers on February 24, headed by Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, initially focused on the work of improving central state administrative agencies (OACE) undertaken by the Implementation and Development Commission. The meeting was informed of the general progress of this activity and the basic principles sustaining it, including details related to the initial restructuring of several ministries.

"The most important part comes now," Raúl stated, one being informed of work underway to improve state administration structures. Beside him, Leonardo Andollo Valdés.

The starting point for improving OACE structures was explained as fulfilling a series of guidelines approved by the 6th Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba, while taking into account the close relationship between this activity and updating the country's economic model.

Members heard that, in this initial stage, one of the fundamental aspects of the Commission's work has been that of improving local People's Power administrative bodies through experiments underway in the new provinces of Mayabeque and Artemisa, recently extended to the special municipality of the Isla de la Juventud.

The most important aspect of these studies is that the experience gained from them has not only defined more clearly the model to be implemented in the rest of the country, but are also highly useful in relation to improving the OACE's, above all those linked to public services, thus ensuring that reorganizations in the health and education systems and other actions are also taken into account.

In a general context, the idea is to gradually reduce the number of state entities, thus providing the country with more integrated structures whose composition will ensure efficient functioning, greater rationality and a reduction of unnecessary costs of all kinds.

For example, streamlining the Physical Planning and Housing Institutes is vital in order to ensure an adequate response to transformations initiated in the housing and town planning sectors and, at the same time, this will contribute to greater efficiency and accountability in their principal working guidelines.

In this context, the Cuban President reiterated the importance of imposing order in the country concerning urban issues, which means that the Physical Planning Institute and related authorities must concentrate on confronting truly pressing problems. "We have repeated this on various occasions already, the solution is not to prohibit construction, but to state where and how to do it," he noted.

"Housing needs cannot be a motive for illegalities and when these are committed, the Attorney General's Office of the Republic and the Ministry of the Interior have the authority to confront them and take action against offenders, in order not to leave any margin for impunity," he stated.

The Council of Ministers moved on to approve improvement proposals from the Finance and Prices and Labor and Social Security Ministries, which involve transforming the Ministry of Basic Industry (MINBAS) into the Ministry of Energy and Mines, which will carry out state functions in oil activities, electrical energy and mining. The meeting also approved the creation of an Industry Ministry based on the merger of the iron and steel, light and chemical industries, this last previously the responsibility of MINBAS.

It was explained that these decisions are in response to problems identified in these OACE's, while representing a move forward in the separation of state and management functions.

The President described this as the first step taken, "while the most important one comes now, because success in this undertaking depends on the correct implementation of these decisions and their systemic control. For that reason, he emphasized following this rhythm with patience and profundity, to ensure better results.

Raúl commented that reducing the structures of these entities will leave available a number of buildings which could be used for other purposes. The Council of Ministers was also given information on entry plans into higher education for daily and fortnightly classes in the 2012-2013 academic year. These plans were drawn up with the participation of all entities involved, to ensure that the options respond to the country's needs and development projections.

Plans for the educational year 2012-2013 to facilitate ninth grade students' entry into technical and pre-university studies were also detailed. These were drawn up in an effort to guarantee continuing study by those who have left school, adjusting entry options given the demand for intermediate technicians, and the need to incorporate qualified workers into the specialties of mechanics, transportation, electricity; and the construction, light, agro-industrial and service industries, both to meet demand and allow continuity of study.

The next agenda item was a summary of the results of the comprehensive state budget audit undertaken by the Comptroller General of the Republic in relation to the Ministry of Construction (MICONS) and its system of entities. According to the Comptroller's final assessment, the Ministry's leadership has identified the principal problems affecting the fulfillment of its functions; however, a combination of factors is preventing it from advancing more rapidly and systematically.

Problems accumulated over years have had an impact, as has certain cadres' lack of training and inadequate performance, evidenced by the persistence of many shortcomings. In the same way, while in general MICONS and its entities are meeting meet their targets by more than 90%, delays in the execution of construction programs persist in the majority of works underway, as well as contracting problems and production shortfalls in the materials industry.

Also detailed in the meeting were the results of an investigation on the part of the Attorney General's Office and the National Institute of Hydraulic Resources (INRH) into the aqueduct construction project in the municipality of Manzanillo, Granma province, the execution of which began in 2002.

Despite the fact that investments in the work were completed in 2005, from 2007 to 2011 additional costs of more than two million Cuban pesos were needed to address defects in the investment process and irregularities detected in the aqueduct's functioning. The investigation revealed that the investment package was not properly prepared, given that there was no comprehensive plan. Individual budgets were drawn up for various aspects of the project as they were about to begin.

Violations of established means of protection to minimize possible impacts on water quality were also identified, thus exposing non-compliance with Physical Planning regulations and a potential risk to the population.

Referring to this aspect, Raúl once again called for lessons to be learned from errors committed and noted the strategic importance of all the investments currently underway to take maximum advantage of water availability. "There are hundreds of cases like this in the country and none of these acts can go unpunished, because we cannot coexist with impunity."

"What has happened is another demonstration of the fact that if we fail to address problems of order, discipline and rigor, which are a common denominator in many places, it will be much harder to solve shortcomings. We are not going to allow the same errors to be committed again and again," he stated.

The President called for reflection on the questions, "What failed. What did we do wrong? Where did we go wrong? We cannot allow these problems to happen, we are aware of them, we even comment on them, but we do not undertake in-depth investigations to understand why and how they happened," he concluded.

Lastly, the meeting was given an update on the situation of the sugarcane harvest and delays to date. The principal causes of failing to meet targets at the mills are due to technical failures which could not be resolved and operative interruptions for various reasons, even though resources and necessary parts reached sugar mills in time for the current harvest.

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