The 274 updated Economic and Social Policy Guidelines of the Party and the Revolution, approved during the 7th Party Congress this past April, were among the topics discussed July 4, the opening day of commission meetings, prior to the 7th period of Ordinary Sessions of the 8th Legislature. Commissions are organized to focus on the following issues: Food and Agriculture; National Defense; Delivery of Services; Children, Youth, and the Rights of Women; International Relations; Industry, Construction, and Energy; as well as Education, Culture, Science, Technology, and Environment.
Work done on the implementation of policy guidelines since the 6th Party Congress in 2011 was discussed by deputies, with a focus on updates emerging from the practical experience gained and related debates.
In the National Defense commission, José Antonio Carrillo Gómez, deputy from Nueva Paz in Mayabeque, noted that this discussion has been ongoing across the country since 2011, and that the population’s opinions are being considered.
Karen Alvarado from the municipality of Yateras in Guantánamo, participating in the Food and Agriculture commission, emphasized the importance of avoiding delays in the preparation of the legal framework needed to implement the Guidelines, to ensure that progress in the development of laws and regulations keeps pace with National Assembly discussions on policies.
Deputies focused on Industry, Construction and Energy, agreed, specifically referring to non-agricultural cooperatives. José Quintana, from Camagüey, commented that although progress has been made, regulatory issues and procedures for the acquisition of supplies have not yet been defined.
“There has been talk of an Enterprise Law and a Cooperatives Law, but they have yet to be concretized and disseminated. These bodies of law are indispensable to resolving a series of problems, about which there is little clarity,” said José Cabrera, from Minas de Matahambre, in Pinar del Río.
On the other hand, Estrella Herrera, deputy from Camagüey, addressed guidelines related to investment and construction projects, stating, “We must consider the possibilities for training Cuban construction workers to ensure quality and speed, as well as taking advantage of builders among the self-employed and in cooperatives.”
Agreeing with her was Pedro Astraín, from the municipality of Mayarí, who added that the country’s policy should be to import only what is impossible to produce in Cuba, and contract foreign consultants to train our workforce.
He emphasized that a radical turn-around is needed in the situation surrounding construction projects and related research in the country, to increase capacity in this area, the technology and technique taught in universities, saying, “The economics of construction begin with the project and research.”
Several comments in the Services commission focused on the need to continue improving internal bookkeeping in state enterprises, in addition to pertinent training for those who are engaged in establishing new forms of economic management, to ensure better supervision of production and financial outcomes.
Additional emphasis was placed on problems with incomplete staffing and the placement of recent graduates, which must be solved since the performance of human beings and a qualified workforce are just as important as material resources, the legislator said.
Deputy Tomasa Molina Bernal, from Villa Clara, reported that there are currently municipalities in her province where last year’s budget close-out reports have not been completed, because they simply don’t have the personnel to do them. Recovering a sense of responsibility, of hard work, as part of a change in mentalities, comes first, she said, emphasizing that deputies must serve as examples in their workplaces, as is expressed in Guideline no.11.
Along these same lines, Yaquelin Puebla, from the municipality of Bartolomé Maso, in Granma, noted that the economic battle is at the center of political work, and leaders must focus on knowledge, so that, with the participation of all, enterprises and cooperatives are solvent and generate earnings.
Referring to Guideline no.15, Deputy Pedro Víctor Simón Rodríguez, also in the Services commission, added that capacity building is a key issue, that regular training is needed, about what is being established legally in the country, not only for enterprise managers, but for delegates and Party leaders as well, so they can do a better job supervising.
Regarding autonomy and the ability of municipalities to assume decentralized management responsibilities – addressed in Guideline no.17 – Arelis Virgen Maceo, from Habana del Este, noted that it is at the local level where the problems are, and this is where public policies based on objective realities can be formulated, and the population involved as part of the solution.
A MUCH NEEDED DISCUSSION
The concentration of wealth engendered a number of reflections in the Education, Culture, Science, Technology, and Environment commission.
Deputies agreed that this phenomenon is a reality, and Alpidio Alonso, from the Havana municipality of Plaza de la Revolución questioned whether the country is ready to regulate its development, when previous experience has shown, “We have not been able to apply mechanisms of control,” and, “We cannot accept this in the model of socialism we are proposing.”
Miguel Limia, from Campechuela, in Granma, insisted, “The fact that we recognize the ability of private property to manage resources in an efficient manner in certain areas of society, implies the need to avoid it becoming the organizer of life in society, leading toward polarization, toward the restoration of capitalism.”
He noted that the conceptualization of Cuba’s socialist model defines social property as the base of the country’s socio-economic life and development, requiring growth and the accumulation of capital for investment, but also implies regulation with measures adopted to limit the concentration of wealth and property to levels which do not undermine basic social equality or legitimate differentiation within society.
Yury Valdés, from the Havana municipality of La Lisa, commented that the development of this phenomenon puts socialism at risk, “And we do not have the right to realize, 10 years from now, that we made a mistake.” He stated that clearly the concentration of wealth and property is happening today, and that what is most difficult, beyond theoretical concepts, is how to find a practical solution. Regarding the role of the National Assembly, he insisted that the body must follow-up on the impact of measures adopted, saying, “We need to go and see where these manifestations are occurring.”
In regards to policies on science, technology, and the environment, Deputy Mirta Millán, from the Isle of Youth Special Municipality, proposed adding to Guideline no.102 the importance of not only sustaining and developing science, as the document states, but also disseminating this knowledge, given the economic and social impact it can have.
Eulogio Pimentel, from Nuevitas in Camagüey, suggested adding a guideline on high tech enterprises, or adding this specific category in appendix 112, referring to the promotion of dynamic structures, given that technology is critical to scientific research and innovation in many countries.
He said that such enterprises could generate industrial property and greater earnings, and benefit from tax and financing incentives which favor the use of technology in production. They can promote the application of scientific research in the Cuban economy, he said.
Zuleica Romay, president of the Cuban Book Institute, expressed concern regarding guidelines on employment and salaries, and the absence of a specific item on protecting workers in the private sector, given that, in a few cases, super-exploitation has been revealed.
Other deputies expressed similar opinions on the issue, and emphasized its importance regardless of the formulation used in the Guidelines, calling for practical solutions and a culture of attention to workers in this sector.
Consensus and support are perhaps the best words to summarize what was happening in the Convention Center’s various meeting rooms, where the issues were discussed. This was the case largely because of the extensive process of consultation held in provinces before and after the recent Party Congress, which included members of People’s Power assemblies, either as delegates or invited guests.
Bernardo Díaz Bello, president of the Food and Agriculture commission noted that the richness of debate within this group of deputies produced timely proposals and observations on the Guidelines, and reflected the vast fund of deep, well-founded knowledge regarding the most pressing priorities in agriculture.