Cuba prepares for parliamentary session on economic reforms
- Submitted by: manso
- Politics and Government
- 07 / 31 / 2011
By Juan O. Tamayo.elnuevoherald.com. Complaints of continuing corruption, shortfalls of food production and other economic ills rattled Cuba Friday on the eve of a session of parliament expected to endorse Raúl Castro’s ambitious efforts at reforms.
“Order, discipline and exigence,” Castro demanded at a cabinet meeting in which he laid out the string of problems undermining his reforms, according to a report Friday in the state-run Granma newspaper.
Castro will address the three-day session of the National Assembly of People’s Power, which opens Monday, to report on his reform program to the one government institution that has not yet approved it.
A full congress of the ruling Communist Party in April approved a list of more than 300 “guidelines” for the reforms, designed to yank the Soviet-styled economy out of its deep and long-running slump.
The guidelines include deep cuts in state subsidies and payrolls, giving more autonomy to government-owned enterprises and allowing expansions of foreign investments and small private enterprises such as barber shops.
But Cuban news media reports Friday indicated that while the campaign is making progress in some areas, it is falling short in many others.
Castro, who has repeatedly branded corruption as an impediment to the reforms, warned his cabinet last Saturday that prosecutors and judges will have to crack down on the shady dealings, Granma reported.
Granma and Juventud Rebelde also reported the Cuban economy grew in the first six months of 2011, but gave no figures except for some of the sectors that fell short of the government’s central planning goals.
Of all the construction materials that the government plans to sell to private individuals this year, only 15.6 percent had been sold as of the end of June, according to the newspapers.
And of the 23.394 housing units that state enterprises plan to build this year, only 28 were in fact finished in the first six months, they added. Private builders did even worse, finishing only 16 percent of their 3,206 planned units.
Granma also reported that costly agricultural imports will have to increase because of continuing shortfalls in agricultural production, despite Castro’s two-year-old program of leasing fallow state lands to private farmers.
Cuba will have to spend about $1.5 billion this year to import at least 60 percent of the food its people consume, according to government estimates. Other estimates put imports at up to 80 percent of consumption.
Granma and Juventud Rebelde usually report on the weekend cabinet meetings in their Monday or Tuesday editions, and there was no immediate explanation for the delay this week. Last month, Granma reported it would soon publish “important news” from the cabinet, but then published nothing.
More details on the reforms are expected to be made public when Vice President Marino Murillo, Cuba’s “reforms tsar,” addresses the parliament, which meets only twice a year for one-week sessions.
About 600 members have been meeting in committees and subcommittees behind closed doors this week to discuss what Granma describes as “dozens of issues, most linked to the economic-social transformations under way.”