Friday, April 06, 2012

Cuban Council of Ministers: We Must Analyze Every Problem Comprehensively

Havana. April 5, 2012

Council of Ministers: We must analyze every problem comprehensively

Yaima Puig Meneses

President Raúl Castro opened an expanded meeting of the Council of Ministers, March 31, expressing congratulations to the Cuban people for the support and respect shown Pope Benedict XVI during his recently concluded visit to the country. He also acknowledged the work of the Party, central state administration and all those who, in one way or another, contributed to the organization of the many activities.

The first point on the agenda was an analysis of directives being formulated for next year’s economic plan and budget, which are now being discussed at an earlier date.

As explained by Adel Yzquierdo Rodríguez, Vice President of the Council of Ministers and head of Economy and Planning, the development of the 2013 plan will take into consideration updated projections made in the medium term plan through 2016, as well as the 6th Party Congress Economic and Social Policy Guidelines.

The Gross Internal Product growth rate is expected to increase primarily as a result of strategic investments being made, in addition to other factors. The Economy and Planning Minister reported that the largest portion of this increase is based on expectations for productive activity and emphasized the importance of industry and construction.

The plan proposes expanding exports and limiting imports as much as possible, based on the potential of national industries; prioritizing food production; developing more efficiency in energy use and supporting the sales of agricultural supplies, construction materials, and provisions for the self-employed.

At the same time Yzquierdo emphasized the importance of making accurate estimates related to all economic activities or production plans and carefully prepare for all investments proposed.

Referring to this issue, President Raúl Castro insisted, once again, on the necessary rigor with which problems must be studied, to allow for adequate planning.

Minister of Finance and Prices Lina Pedraza Rodríguez, presented the budget report and indicated that its projections provide financial support for all activities foreseen in the Economic Plan, at all levels, and reflects all the directives which emerged during the plan’s development, emphasizing the close collaboration established between her ministry and that of Economy and Planning, in addition to other bodies.

After the presentations and discussion, the Council of Ministers approved the proposed directives for the further development of the 2013 Plan and Budget.

Next, Marino Murillo Jorge, Vice President of the Council of Ministers, explained the results of a diagnostic analysis of the current situation within the Ministry of Agriculture and outlined proposals for improving its functioning, structure and composition.

In general terms, the analysis concluded that the ministry has functioned in an unfavorable economic-financial environment for several years, negatively impacting the fulfillment of its responsibilities. The study also showed that inadequate measures, and few steps, have been taken thus far to address problems.

The analysis revealed the complexity of issues facing the various components which comprise the Ministry of Agriculture’s organizational system and confirmed the need to establish plans for the immediate, medium and long term, in order to transform this important ministry.

In this context, the President reiterated the importance of studying every problem or situation as a whole, before making any specific change, thus ensuring that solutions are comprehensive.

Murillo, as head of the Policy Implementation and Development Permanent Commission, also presented a recently approved plan to pilot the creation of cooperatives outside of the agricultural sector, reflecting the 36 Guidelines directly related to this issue approved by the 6th Party Congress last year.

For each area in which the pilot will be implemented, fundamental policy principles have been developed to govern functioning, while preserving, in all cases, the regulatory role of the government, within the limits of its responsibility.

As the meeting continued, the Minister of Finance and Prices explained principal changes to tax law under consideration, based on the criteria expressed by various bodies and institutions, as part of the effort to reconcile the code. As the Council of Ministers agreed in September of 2011, a proposal will be made to the National Assembly to discuss and approve changes to the law during its next ordinary session, looking to begin their implementation in January of 2013.

The proposed law would include the option of changing tax rates every year as part of the budget approval process, as well as regulating a series of tax benefits to stimulate production and the development of specific economic activities and sectors.

The last three points on the Council of Ministers’ agenda were the responsibility of Leonardo Andollo Valdés, deputy director of the Implementation and Development Permanent Commission.

First he explained the proposals regarding the Ministry of Informatics and Communication, meant to better define its mission, functioning and organizational structure, while at the same time, rationalizing its composition, reordering its enterprise system and eliminating activities which do not support its fundamental purpose. This would be the initial step toward separating state regulatory work from that of the production and service enterprises in this sector.

Next Andollo Valdés reported on the temporary regulations guiding the functioning of administrative bodies in the new provinces of Artemisa and Mayabeque and the Isla de la Juventud special municipality, which provide the legal foundation to carry out approved pilot programs there in a well-ordered manner.

Finally, he presented information about changes in the functioning of municipal councils in Mayabeque and Artemisa which will assure adequate coordination at the provincial level, while creating a more rational and efficient structure.

He indicated that this step, to be completed by July, concludes the process begun in 2009, which has laid the foundation for the full implementation of the experimental projects in these provinces.

He indicated that a decision had been made to postpone the implementation of the new structural plan on the Isle of Youth until 2014, in an effort to better coordinate these changes with other efforts underway to promote economic development within the municipality.

Addressing this issue, the President commented that more specific study was needed about decisions regarding the Isle of Youth, to determine how realistic and sustainable development can be attained there.

He pointed out, "Today we have analyzed serious issues of great importance, which, little by little, are defining the way forward. The measures which we are now implementing are based on agreements made at the 6th Congress of the Communist Party which were previously approved by the population, as well, in a broad, democratic consultation process and subsequently by the National Assembly."

"We cannot forget that to be successful we must be prepared to discuss any proposal whatsoever, at all levels, which supposes the participation of the people," he emphasized.

"We are obliged to study and prepare ourselves for all possible variants, since -despite some progress which we can already note - the work we have before us is enormous," Raúl said, "indicating the ever-increasing importance of training those responsible before carrying out any task."

Finally, as he introduced Division General Samuel Rodiles Planas as the new director of the national Physical Planning Institute, Raúl emphasized, once again, the important role this body must play in re-establishing order and respect for urban building codes, which are today being violated from one end of the island to another.

"The idea is not to prohibit construction, but to indicate where it takes place. We have already said this on a number of occasions, but we have to more consistently demand respect for what has been established and confront violators, whoever they may be," the President concluded.

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