Republic of Cuba President Raúl Castro with Mary Blanca Ortega Barredo, Minister of Domestic Trade, listen to Gladys Bejerano, the country’s Comptroller General. (Photo: Estudios Revolución), a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Havana. May 21, 2012
Systematicity and persistence: Key to the country’s development
● Two elements emphasized as common denominators by President Raúl Castro during expanded meetings of the Council of Ministers and National Defense Council held May 12
Yaima Puig Meneses
AN expanded meeting of the National Defense Council was held during the morning of May 12, guided by the concept, emphasized by Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, President of the National Defense Council, that the complex problems which persist within diverse economic and social spheres in the country must be addressed with systematicity and perseverance.
The event was scheduled in order to review work completed during 2011 to maintain national defense readiness.
One of the topics on the agenda was presented by Minister of Basic Industry Tomás Benítez Hernández, who reported on the recuperation of fuel storage facilities.
Likewise, Division General Ramón Pardo Guerra, head of the National Defense Joint Chiefs of Staff, presented an update on the current health and epidemiological situation in the country and emphasized the need to maintain vigorous anti-vector efforts [to control disease-carrying mosquitoes].
Brigadier General Rafael Ruiz Pérez, head of the Revolutionary Armed Forces Ministry Directorate, reported on results of the Active Military Service call-up and detailed the work of medical and recruitment commissions, which is progressing satisfactorily, ensuring that the personnel needs of the Revolutionary Armed Forces and the Ministry of the Interior are met.
Commenting on this issue, President Raúl Castro said that the decreasing birth rate in the country implies the need for in-depth studies about how to deal with its consequences within different areas of society.
José Ramón Machado Ventura, Vice President of the National Defense Council, was responsible for the meeting’s closing report and emphasized the effort made by the entire people, with the leadership of the Party and government, over the last year.
"The year 2011 was characterized by the maintenance of the economic, commercial and financial blockade of our country, media campaigns intended to discredit the revolutionary process and destabilize our social system, as well as the sharpening of the global crisis and its reflection in the world economy, and provided the context within which we continued to pay attention to the country’s readiness to defend itself," Machado Ventura said.
He likewise emphasized the need to prioritize, within the agricultural and food processing sector, efficiency in areas under cultivation; increased yields; national production of seeds and animal feed; as well as the continued development of urban and suburban agriculture, among other issues key to ensuring the nation’s sustainable food supply.
Machado Ventura, also Vice President of the Councils of State and Ministers, recalled that the country continues to be immersed in the implementation of decisions adopted at the 6th Communist Party of Cuba Congress, in particular, the guidelines related to social and economic policy.
COUNCIL OF MINISTERS EXPANDED MEETING
During the afternoon of the same day, an expanded meeting of the Council of Ministers was held to analyze several issues, among them the results of the diagnostic evaluation undertaken of the government’s auditing and budget control system, with the active participation of different bodies and entities. The study identified the most common difficulties encountered in the performance of these activities, as well as the causes which create these difficulties.
According to Leonardo Andollo Valdés, deputy director of the Implementation and Development Permanent Commission [created to ensure the implementation of 6th Party Congress decisions], among the deficiencies detected were the excessive number of supervisory actions which in many cases lack comprehensive, in-depth analysis of the causes of problems; plans for formal measures which do not include adequate follow-up; insufficient or unstable follow-through on efforts to address shortcomings detected by higher leadership levels; and the existence of a large number of regulations and legal norms, developed and put into effect without comprehensive consideration.
Therefore – with the purpose of providing the country with a much more efficient and timely financial control system – the Council of Ministers approved a number of basic principles which will be applied experimentally in the provinces of Artemisa and Mayabeque and in Central State Administration Bodies (OACE) to guide efforts to perfect structures and improve functioning. The results will be subsequently evaluated, before changes are extended to all other government bodies and enterprises, in 2015.
Later on during the meeting, Mary Blanca Ortega Barredo, Minister of Domestic Commerce explained a proposed policy for the liquidation of over-stocks and slow moving inventories, which was approved by the Council of Ministers after the report and discussion. The policy reflects Guideline No. 312 approved by the 6th Party Congress, which calls for effective control of sales and inventories throughout the country’s retail and wholesale network, in order to minimize the paralyzation of resources and losses.
During her presentation, Ortega Barredo referred to the performance of inventories at the close of 2011, reporting that around 3% of stock was categorized as idle or slow moving. This figure could, however, be greater which, along with unsatisfactory use of inventories, has a cascading effect, producing a series of outstanding payments among enterprises and government bodies, with the consequent damage to the economy.
During the discussion, Rául reiterated the importance of not underestimating any problem, no matter how complex it may appear, saying that we have at times postponed addressing problems and lived with them instead of solving them.
The last two points on the agenda were presented by Marino Murillo Jorge, Vice President of the Council of Ministers. First he reported on the functioning of the National Statistics and Information Office (ONEI) website, which has been systematically issuing publications about a variety of issues and sectors of the economy, on a national, provincial and municipal level.
Next Murillo, who also heads the Implementation and Development Permanent Commission, described the characteristics of the survey which will be used in the national Population and Housing Census to be carried out in September this year, as well as the type of information being sought. As he explained, the Population and Housing Census is the largest and most complex statistical investigation most countries undertake and is recommended every 10 years. Cuba conducted its last comprehensive census in 2002.
Geographic, educational and economic information will be gathered during the Census, in addition to data about population and housing. Aspects of internal migration and labor mobility will also be clarified.
This year’s Population and Housing Census will expand information available about the physical condition of the country’s housing stock, potable water supplies and employment status – state and non-state – among other issues.
In conclusion, the President referred to an article published in Granma, May 11, entitled ‘Containing disorder’ (Atajar el desorden) and emphasized the need to address the long-standing problem of illegal construction across the country.
"The task we have before us is immense," he said, "but we are going to get this in order and, to do so, the Physical Planning Institute will be playing an increasingly active role."