Cuba established “clear” priorities in a plan until 2030 to avoid at all costs relapsing into a serious crisis similar to the so-called “special period” of the 1990s, given the renewed pressures from the United States and the inefficiency of its economy, announced this Saturday President Miguel Díaz-Canel.
“The severity of the moment requires establishing clear and well-defined priorities, so as not to return to the difficult moments of the ‘special period,'” Díaz-Canel said at the close of an extraordinary session of the National Assembly, which approved the new Constitution last week.
The president, who next Friday will have served one year as head of state, acknowledged that Cuba still carries “the burden of administrative inefficiency, import mentality, lack of savings and insufficient income from exports.”
“We can’t exclude the manifestations of corruption and illegalities, unacceptable in the Revolution,” said the president, who outlined “two absolute priorities: preparation for defense and economic battle.”
The planning of the Cuban economy until 2030 is conceived in three stages (2019-2021, 2022-2026 and 2027-2030), with a primary focus on six “strategic sectors.”
The priority will be tourism, biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry, renewable energy sources, food production, construction and export of professional services, the latter considered by analysts as the main source of income for the country.
Díaz-Canel included among the “immediate” tasks the reorganization of Cuban domestic trade, the revitalization of the state business system and the boost to the private sector, made up of more than 580,000 self-employed workers.
He called for “working intensively” to improve food supply and to resolve the chronic problems of housing, transportation and the quality of services.
It must be achieved, “even in the midst of suffocating financial persecutions that make particularly difficult the import of goods and resources of basic necessity,” he said, referring to the restrictions of the embargo that the United States has strengthened since the arrival of Donald Trump to the White House.
He also mentioned the incentives for foreign investment, recognized in the new Magna Carta as vital to revive the battered economy of the island and that still doesn’t reach the necessary levels due to the bureaucratic obstacles from the past.
“It is essential to save and control resources well,” the president requested, in line with the appeal of his predecessor, former president and leader of the ruling Communist Party of Cuba (the only legal one), Raul Castro, when he addressed Parliament last Wednesday.
In his speech, Castro (87 years old) urged Cubans to “always be prepared for the worst variant” of the economy because “the situation could worsen in the coming months.”
Díaz-Canel recalled the intense financial, energy and food crisis suffered by the country in the ’90s after the fall of the Soviet Union and the withdrawal of subsidies from the communist bloc.
Baptized by Fidel Castro as “special period in times of peace,” it is a trauma that persists in the memory of Cubans and a danger that the Cuban government insists on pushing away.
“History has something to tell us…. The generation of our parents and grandparents faced, with less experience and even fewer resources, more serious and dark moments. And they were victorious,” insisted the first Cuban president who doesn’t have Castro as a surname in almost 60 years.
He predicted a “long” and “arduous” period of work for this legislature of the National Assembly, which will have to approve the more than fifty laws that will be derived from the recently promulgated Constitution.
The Cuban president’s speech comes at a time of economic distress for the country, which defaulted on its export revenues in 2018 and maintains a high level of indebtedness.
This is compounded by the crisis in Venezuela, the island’s main trading partner, which drastically reduced its shipments of subsidized crude, so Havana had to find other oil suppliers such as Russia and Algeria, which it buys at market prices.
Economy Minister Alejandro Gil also addressed the parliamentary session. He affirmed that the economic plan until 2030 “can be fulfilled,” although he acknowledged that in the first stage (2019-2021) the country will face “severe financial restrictions.”
Gil specified that support for local development projects and self-supply, the increase in exports, the boost to foreign investment, sales to cruise ships that touch Cuban ports, oil extraction and clean energy will be among the immediate measures.
As “essential” he pointed out the need for a real adjustment of planning so as not to increase the debt, the timely collection of export revenues and guaranteeing the coverage of domestic demand for food and medicine.