In his speech this Tuesday in the National Assembly of People’s Power, Cuban President Raúl Castro called for overcoming an obsolete mentality, full of prejudices against foreign investment.
Raúl Castro stated he was against the fear of foreign capital. “We’re not heading toward capitalism,” he commented, “but we should not be afraid or place obstacles in the way of what can be done in the framework of the laws currently in force.”
The president recognized the island’s financial limitations, despite which, he said, services for the population were maintained and the obligations contracted for the reorganization of the foreign debt were met. In addition he thanked Cuba’s trade partners for their confidence and reiterated his government’s will to overcome the delay in the current payments to suppliers.
During the closing of the 8th period of sessions of the 8th legislature of Parliament, Raúl Castro insisted on the effects of the U.S. blockade against Cuba, despite the measures taken by the Obama administration. He also spoke about the impact of Hurricane Matthew in the country’s eastern region; confirmed the forecast about the GDP growth in 2017 of around two percent, as had been previously affirmed by Minister of Economy and Planning Ricardo Cabrisas.
As previewed, he referred to the legacy of his brother, deceased revolutionary leader Fidel Castro, who passed away last November 25 and to whom the Assembly dedicated part of its sessions this Tuesday. Finally, he congratulated the Cuban people for the advent of 2017, named by Parliament as “Year 59 of the Revolution.”
2016, A TENSE YEAR FOR THE CUBAN ECONOMY
Before Raúl’s speech, in the presence of 500 deputies gathered in the Havana Convention Center Ricardo Cabrisas had dealt with the tense situation Cuba is going through, especially in the availability of hard currency, the non-fulfillment of export incomes and the limitations in the supply of fuel.
In his report, the minister also referred to the impact of some of Cuba’s partners’ economic problems as a consequence of the low oil prices. However, he affirmed that for 2017 it is expected there will be a two percent GDP growth, compared to the 0.9 percent decrease in 2016. These figures contrast with the analysis of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), which previews for the island an increase of only 0.9 percent next year.
The plan for the Cuban economy for the following 12 months forecasts growth in the sugar industry, hotel and restaurant services, transportation, fishing and communications, among others. An increase in power generation, the use of renewable energy sources and of retail mercantile circulation is also expected. He pointed out that the social services will be maintained “at similar levels as previous years.”
In terms of agriculture, Cabrisas said that it is reacting with growths that are still modest and he recognized that the food industry does not adequately encourage agricultural production in order to respond to the national demand and the increase in visitors. This is why an increase of 82 million dollars for food imports is previewed for 2017.
In the same way, and according to the island’s president, the minister pointed out that foreign investment continues being very low with respect to all investments, since it represents only 6.5 percent of the coming year’s plan.
With a view to revitalizing this panorama, he said there are plans to strengthen strategic sectors and back prioritized programs and investments; among them tourism in Havana, Varadero and the group of cays to the north of Holguín, and the infrastructure of the Mariel Special Development Zone.
Finally, the minister of economy advanced that for 2017 a growth in productivity and in the population’s mean income is estimated, and affirmed that the State’s capacity for takeover will enable the monetary-financial balance in the country.
The draft State Budget Law for 2017 was discussed and approved in the Assembly. When presenting it to the forum, Minister of Finances and Prices Lina Pedraza said that this draft shows a negative result of around 11.5 billion pesos and 12 percent of the GDP, and commented that that deficit is backed by the increase previewed in productions and investments, and ensures the necessary backing for the social sphere.
According to the minister, to cover that figure the emission of Sovereign Bonds acquired by the National Banking System has been previewed, together with other financial commitments to be executed next year. In her opinion the draft budget takes into account the financial resources that will be reasonably attracted according to the conditions of the economy, which will make it possible to ensure the approved policies’ financial sustainability.
In her speech Lina Pedraza announced the application of new measures, among them the reduction of taxes for the use of the workforce to decrease spending in the business and budgeted sector; the local governments’ disposal of up to 50 percent of the profits after taxes, with the aim of having financial sources to back their development; and the application of measures, together with the national police, for the failure to comply with the payment of fines and taxes.
USE OF THE NAME AND FIGURE OF FIDEL CASTRO
Parliament also approved the draft law on the use of the name and figure of Fidel Castro, who passed away last November 25. The Cuban president had advanced this in Santiago de Cuba, when in a mass rally he announced the posthumous wish of his brother of not being honored in public places or monuments. The Cuban president announced then that the Assembly would discuss “the required legislative proposals for his will to prevail.”
According to this, the secretary of the Council of State, Homero Acosta, presented the draft law that was backed by the words said by Havana Historian Eusebio Leal Spengler.
The document submitted to the consideration of Parliament established the banning of the use of the name of Fidel “to designate institutions, squares, parks, avenues, streets and other public places, as well as any type of decoration, recognition or honorary title.”
In addition it forbids the use of his figure “to build monuments, busts, statues, commemorative plaques and other similar forms of homage,” like “the use of denominations, images or allusions of any kind referring to the figure of Commander in Chief Fidel Castro Ruz for its use as a brand or other distinctive marks, domain name and designs for commercial or publicity purposes.”
The law only exempts the use of his name to designate some institution that can be created in the future for the study of his life and work. Neither does it limit his presence in literary artistic production. The institutions that today have his images will be able to maintain them.
Precisely at the opening of its sessions Parliament had dedicated a minute of silence in homage to Fidel Castro. In addition, a video was screened with fragments of several of his speeches.
The Parliament session welcomed nine deputies from several parts of the country, who for different reasons officially assumed the post in this moment of the 8th legislature. That is why, as the Parliament speaker announced, the new MPs received a report of the agreements approved during previous sessions.
Deputy Susely Morfa, the current secretary of the Union of Young Communists (UJC), was elected as a new member of the Council of States replacing Yuniasky Crespo Baquero, who previously held the same post.
The Cuban deputies received information about the Assembly’s agreements for the experiment that has been carried out for five years in the provinces of Artemisa and Mayabeque. As part of it the administrative functions were separated from those of government for more effective work. Like in 2014, Parliament now approved a two-year extension to continue the experience.