Speaking during the plenary session of the National Assembly of People’s Power, July 8, President Raúl Castro Ruz, insisted, “When facing difficulties and threats, there is no room for improvisation or defeatism.”
In an explication of the current economic conjuncture, Raúl commented that a June 25 Council of Ministers meeting and Party Central Committee Plenum, July 7, had both concentrated their analysis on the economy’s performance during the first half of the year.
“In December of 2015, I explained that financial limitations were being projected as a consequence of a reduction in income, as well as effects on mutually beneficial, advantageous cooperative relations with several countries, in particular with the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, subjected to an economic war meant to weaken support for its revolution,” Raúl said.
The Cuban President reported that a growth rate of 1% of the GDP, half of what was planned, has been the result of “the sharpening of external financial restrictions caused by lower than projected income from exports, along with limitations being confronted by some of our principal trade partners, due to the drop in oil prices.”
He noted that in addition to this, tensions exist as a result of difficulties Venezuela is having with supplying contracted oil, despite President Nicolás Maduro’s firm commitment to do so.
Raúl reported that, although payments recently restructured with foreign creditors are being made, delays in some currently due payments to suppliers have occurred, and he thanked these foreign creditors for their understanding. He cited, as well, the continuing effects of the U.S. blockade and prohibitions on Cuba’s use of the U.S. dollar in international transactions, more than three months after President Obama announced the elimination of this policy.
Thus he said, these are the circumstances which have led to measures adopted by the Council of Ministers, directed toward guaranteeing the continued functioning of principal economic activities and minimizing the impact on the population.
Given speculation that has appeared about an imminent economic crisis, or a return to the most difficult times of the Special Period, he noted that this challenge, “was overcome thanks to the Cuban people’s capacity to resist and its unlimited confidence in Fidel and the Party,” adding that the country is in a better position now to face “even greater” difficulties and turn the situation around.
“To victoriously overcome a conjuncture like the one we are facing requires acting with energy, equanimity, rationality and political sensitivity, tightening up coordination between the Party and the government, and above all, with much optimism and confidence in the present and future of the Revolution,” he said.
The Cuban President called for reducing expenses, promoting conservation, and efficient use of available resources, concentrating investments on activities which generate exports and replace imports; strengthen infrastructure; assure the sustainability of electrical generation; and facilitate better use of energy resources.
He emphasized that plans did not include detaining development programs, and that social services achieved by the Revolution for the people will be protected, and efforts to improve their quality will continue.
Raúl also noted that the National Assembly, the country’s highest state body, had voted to approve the updated Economic and Social Policy Guidelines for the period 2016-2020, approved at the 7th Party Congress, reiterating that this support implied the responsibility to draft and approve the legal and institutional framework needed to implement these modifications.
He likewise recalled that since this past June 15, a broad process of democratic debate was underway on the documents “Conceptualization of the Cuban economic and social model of socialist development,” and the “National Plan of economic and social development through 2030: Proposed vision of the nation, strategic axes and sectors.”
He reaffirmed, “We will continue the updating of our economic model at the pace we sovereignly determine, forging consensus and unity among Cubans in the construction of socialism. The speed of changes will continue to be conditioned by our capacity to do things well, since that has not always been the case.”
The Cuban President insisted on the need for prior preparation, the drafting of normative documents, training, and full understanding of the content of changes at the level where they will be implemented, with follow-up and direction for implementation, supervision, and timely rectification, in the event of missteps.
On another issue, he recognized joint work carried out by the Public Health system, the Party, the Revolutionary Armed Forces, government bodies and grassroots organizations to confront mosquito born diseases like Zika and dengue, which has prevented epidemics thus far and must continue.
Referring to the country’s foreign policy, Raúl reaffirmed that, during these difficult economic circumstances, Cuba’s solidarity with the Bolivarian Chavista Revolution, with President Maduro, his government, and the sister Venezuelan people, will not be weakened in the slightest.
Finally, Raúl recalled that Second Party Secretary José Ramón Machado Ventura will deliver the main speech at the July 26th celebration in Sancti Spiritus of the 63rd anniversary of the assaults on the Moncada and Carlos Manuel de Céspedes Garrisons.
He concluded his remarks stating, “We will commemorate our National Rebellion Day with the conviction that the revolutionary Cuban people will again rise to face the difficulties, without the least trace of defeatism, with full confidence in their Revolution.”