Friday, October 05, 2012

Cuban President Raul Castro Reiterates Call to Work With Rigor and Discipline

October 5, 2012

Raúl reiterates call to work with rigor and discipline

Yaima Puig Meneses & Leticia Martínez Hernández

CHAIRED by President Raúl Castro Ruz, an expanded meeting of the Council of Ministers was held September 28. The first point on the agenda was an analysis of overdue accounts among enterprises for the period December 2011 through July 2012.

Ernesto Medina Villaveirán, president of Cuba’s Central Bank, reported that modest progress has been made in the settling of unpaid accounts payable and receivable, but that there is much more work to be done. His assessment was based on the fact that there continue to be delays in billing and payment, especially within a group of bodies with important economic impact.

In reference to Central State Administration bodies, he emphasized that entities within the same ministry continue to maintain a number of outstanding accounts payable and billable amongst themselves, contributing to a succession of delayed payments.

Medina Villaveirán emphasized the importance of systematically liquidating debts, documenting them with letters of credit which reflect real payment possibilities and ensuring that contracts governing economic activity are adequate, since it is the evaluation and identification of revenue sources to cover the payment which will, for the most part, dictate the agreed-upon payment date.

"The purpose of this documentation and renegotiating is not only the reduction of outstanding debt, but also to objectively identify payment options. If this does not happen, within a few months, it will begin to increase again," commented Medina Villaveirán.

Addressing the issue, the President emphasized the need to work with rigor and discipline, to eliminate the disorganization which leads to waste, theft and negligence. He said that we must carry out what is agreed upon and respect the law, since, if not, it will be difficult to make progress in the updating of Cuba’s economic model.

Next, Marino Murillo Jorge, Vice President of the Council of Ministers, described adjustments made to retail pricing policy in response to Guidelines No.66-71, approved by the 6th Party Congress. He said that the fundamental goal of the changes proposed is the establishment of principles to guide the setting of prices with a comprehensive approach, ensuring a balance between the population’s income and the movement of goods through the retail sales system.

Murillo, also the head of the Policy Implementation and Development Permanent Commission, explained the restructuring of the Textile and Leather and Shoemaking unions based on 6th Party Congress Guideline No.238, which calls for the reorganization of the Ministry of Light Industry’s enterprise system in order to eliminate excessive structures and staff and increase efficiency.

Presenting an outline of the situation within the two unions, Murillo Jorge indicated that the organizations’ facilities are widely dispersed, many underutilized or unproductive, with a large number of workers not directly linked to production and mostly 20-year-old equipment, much of which is currently out of commission.

Over the last few years, this has contributed to a failure to meet production plans. Workers’ salaries are among the lowest in the country and huge losses have been incurred.

The restructuring process, he emphasized, reflects the policy approved for the conformation of the new Ministry of Industries which calls for the creation of concentrated, efficient enterprises. "Productive facilities will not be reduced within the new structure; but the goal is to make them more effective, which should reverse the process of de-capitalization which has occurred, among other benefits," he reported.

According to the report, this is but the first step in a process which will unfold over several years to concentrate productive capacity, eliminate unnecessary expenses and create organizations capable of generating income to gradually improve their equipment and product quality, as well as workers’ income. This will additionally lead to a reduction in the volume of imported goods currently required.

Research done to prepare the proposals began in October 2010, with the participation of experts and technicians working in the existing organizations, should ensure the success of the plan, since those who faced these problems on a daily basis have proposed the best solutions, Murillo emphasized.

Later, Leonardo Andollo Valdés, second in command of the Policy Implementation and Development Commission, explained proposals to improve the Institutes of Physical Planning and Housing, a process which began with the approval last year of changes in transference of property procedures and the strengthening of zoning and land use regulations.

As part of this restructuring, an agreement was reached to transform the Institute of Housing and charge this body with overall management of the Ministry of Construction, to lead and supervise the implementation of state policy with respect to construction, maintenance and housing repairs.

This change should facilitate the reassignment of activities previously assumed by the Institute, not directly linked to construction, to other bodies, such as the Institute of Physical Planning (IPF).

At the same time, the Council of Ministers approved the restructuring of the IPF to support a more comprehensive and rational approach in carrying out its new functions, which include those previously assumed by Housing. Physical Planning will be granted more authority to strengthen inspections and its role as the governing body in terms of urban planning and land use regulation.

Addressing this issue, Raúl commented that meticulous work had been done, but that, nevertheless, the reorganization is just beginning. Efforts undertaken in some beach front communities have been exemplary in reestablishing respect for regulations, although this is but a small portion of what remains to be done to restore discipline in construction, he said.

The last issue to be addressed during the Council meeting, the process of renting state-owned facilities to self-employed workers providing personal and technical services, was discussed in a report by Mary Blanca Ortega Barredo, Minister of Domestic Commerce, reflecting efforts underway to implement Economic and Social Policy Development Guideline No.308.

Currently included in this system are 5,500 workers providing 51 different services, the most popular being hairdressing, barber services and watch repair. She reported that rental contracts have been signed and agreements for the provision of utilities in the buildings rented are almost complete.

Additionally, all of these self-employed workers have been registered as taxpayers and are paying their obligations, demonstrating a high level of discipline, Ortega Barredo said.

In the case of barber shops and hairdressers, which have functioned within this format for some time, the Minister commented that improvements are evident, with buildings expanded and hours of service extended. The sites have been revitalized, with equipment and supplies available. Such changes are becoming more apparent in other buildings being rented to the self-employed.

To support the implementation of these measures, a decision was made to extend tax relief to skilled workers entering the system, for their first year on the job.

President Raúl Castro Ruz commented that the implementation of this new management format constitutes a step forward in the updating of Cuba’s economic model, which frees the state to concentrate on economic activities of more strategic importance to the country.

At the conclusion of the meeting, two videos were screened, the first about progress being made in the second phase of the East-West water diversion system and the second about recent investments in the tourist industry. The two films offered concrete evidence of the importance of these two sectors to Cuba’s future.

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