Saturday, July 30, 2011

Cuba prepares for parliamentary session on economic reforms

Posted on Saturday, 07.30.11

Cuba prepares for parliamentary session on economic reforms

Cuba prepares for a three-day parliamentary session that begins Monday
on economic reforms.
By Juan O. Tamayo

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

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."

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