Saturday, December 31, 2016

The worst year under Raúl Castro

The worst year under Raúl Castro
ORLANDO FREIRE SANTANA | La Habana | 30 de Diciembre de 2016 - 22:48 CET.

It is no secret that the sessions of the National Assembly of the
People's Power are a mere formality. Documents are discussed and
approved that have been "cooked up" by those in the upper echelons of
power, no representative dares suggest an approach contravening the
established script, and the votes are always unanimous.

However, this last session of the National Assembly was characterized by
a particular pallor. It seemed that this time, in a way more evident
than in the past, the conclave was undertaken as a burdensome chore.

The Standing Committees of the Parliament did not meet in the days prior
to the session of the Assembly; there was no Plenum of the Party's
Central Committee, for members to "coordinate" the views that they would
express at the Assembly; and Mr. Marino Murillo did not even bother to
report on progress with regards to the updating of the economic model.
Also of note was the fact that the press did not report at the time – as
had occurred in recent months ­– on the meeting of the Council of
Ministers, held on Saturday, 24 December.

Actually, it is not difficult to identify at least one of the causes of
the Government's despondency: this time there were only calamities to
report. Indeed, this 2016 was the worst year for the economy since Raúl
Castro came to power. They had no choice but to recognize the dip in the
Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and also had to admit that they failed to
follow through on the export plan, and were unable to pay suppliers for
many of the imports that the country had to bring in.

And, as almost always happens in these cases, it was evident that the
regime places the blame on certain shoulders. Among other culprits, they
singled out the Ministries of Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment
(MINCEX), Agriculture (MINAGRI), and the Food Industry (MINAL).

Few would have wanted to be in the shoes of Rodrigo Malmierca, Minister
of MINCEX, when the General-President expressed his dissatisfaction with
the pace of foreign investment, due to excessive delays in the
negotiating process on the Cuban side, and the prejudices that still
exist against foreign investment. The situation is so alarming that the
2017 plan envisions only 6.5% of total investment proceeding from
foreign investors.

The aforementioned 2017 plan aims to import 82 million USD in food than
the previous year. The reason for this additional outlay, a heavy burden
given the precarious state of the country's external finances, is
failures by the MINAGRI and MINAL to meet food production goals.

Incidentally, on Sunday, December 25 the newspaper Juventud Rebelde
published a report in which it was announced that the MINAL's processing
industry had been unable to handle all the mango harvested, such that
much of that fruit had been wasted.

The truth is that at this session of the National Assembly the Minister
of the Economy and Planning, Ricardo Cabrisas, used the term "critical
situation" to refer to the state of the food industry on the Island. In
this regard he suggested coming up with a medium-term program to turn
the situation around. The days of María del Carmen Concepción – Carmita,
as Raúl Castro tends to call her – as at the helm of the MINAL are numbered.

In the end, the apprehension could extend to all the members of the
elite present at the meeting. Because, in addition to calling for an
increase in exports, and continuing down the path of import
substitution, the 2017 plan envisages reducing non-essential expenses to
a bare minimum, such that even those nice little trips abroad could be

And what about monetary unification? The subject was conspicuously
absent from this session of the National Assembly.

Source: The worst year under Raúl Castro | Diario de Cuba -

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