HAVANA TIMES – There will be changes to correct the deficiencies of the failed economic reforms (Tarea Ordenamiento), which was planned for more than ten years and whose execution even the Cuban authorities themselves consider catastrophic.
In his 2021 accountability report, presented this weekend, Prime Minister Manuel Marrero admits that “the objective of this macroeconomic plan projected by Marino Murillo has not been fully achieved” and that, therefore, it will be “necessary to rectify it and adopt new decisions on various elements of its initial design.”
Marrero did not give any clue about what the changes will be, but he did say that they will be imminent, since there is already a schedule with 33 activities that must be completed by February 2022, so, if true and being met, some are already underway without the population being aware of it.
The report describes that the objectives of the reforms were to give the Cuban peso “the role that corresponds to it as the center of the financial system” by eliminating the dual currency, transforming the income of the population and gradually eliminating excessive subsidies and freebies. However, these objectives have not been met.
The prime minister believes that the main problems detected are “the establishment of excessive prices by economic actors; lack of correspondence between prices and the quality levels of products or services; insufficiencies in the state business system and other forms of production that have been present since the previous scenario and tendencies to raise prices to alleviate them; as well as dissatisfaction with the new salaries or income and the modifications in the forms of payment.” In other words, inflation has run out of control, shortages are increasing, the salaries and pensions are not enough to live on, and the living conditions of Cubans have visibly worsened.
This year, according to Marrero, the forecast is that the Gross Domestic Product would grow by around 2%, something logical after the great fall of almost 10% in 2020. Thus, Cuba is very far from the 6% the government had forecast in May, but it is also likely to fall short of the 2.2% calculated in October. By 2022 GDP is expected to grow by 4%, something that, according to experts cited by Reuters, implies that the shortages of critical goods and the continuous difficulties in paying creditors will continue.
The report attributes the bad economic data, as usual in recent times, to the effects of the pandemic, and the “intensification of the blockade,” (as the government calls the US embargo), in addition to an increase in import prices, and freight and logistics problems that are affecting distribution around the world.
However, it does not assume any error of its own or of the Government and, when it refers to problems of corruption, it always attributes them to isolated cases “due to the lack of administrative control, the limited combativeness in the community and the renunciation or lack of moral values and ethics in some managers and officials,” without considering that it could be something systemic.
The report also mentions some notable problems of the year, among them the lack of medicines caused by the high investment that the expenses derived from the pandemic have entailed, among them the costs for production of our own vaccines. All this despite the fact that Cuba has received large donations from countries such as Mexico, Bolivia, Nicaragua, France, Spain, Russia and China mainly, in addition to private donations from pro-government associations from all countries in the world, including the United States.
Marrero indicates in the document that 16 billion pesos (667 million USD at the official exchange rate of 24 x 1) were allocated to the fight against covid, 3.3 billion of them to the complete vaccination process and 400,000 more (indicative) for the next booster dose. “Consequently, the national drug program has been affected, and work is being done to reduce the shortage of these and the low coverage of the basic medicines,” he said.
Another of the great needs of Cubans, housing, also failed this year. According to the report, the Construction Plan had achieved barely 31% of its goals as of October. The prime minister also hints at the detour of resources when he points out that, although it is absurd to deny the lack of steel or cement, there are other inputs that have not been well managed. “There are fewer homes built than resources delivered,” he highlights.
As for energy generation, which this year has once again suffered one of its worst moments, with scheduled blackouts since the summer that remain unsolved, Marrero admits that demand has not been met and that the population is upset. “In this sense, an availability recovery strategy is being executed, which will allow better service by having a greater reserve at the end of the year. The work continues on a sustained basis in the increase,” he promises. A broken promise for at least the entire second half of the year.
Finally, the text sets out the major objectives and plans for next year. Broadly defined, the five plans are to improve the economy and the role of the peso, stabilize the energy system, serve vulnerable groups, transform the state business system, and decentralize powers.
However, for such large economic objectives, the Government has drawn up a list of 22 priorities, led by the country’s preparation for Defense and ideological political work and, although the third priority is to carry out measures to contain inflation, the method for which is unknown, the fourth point returns to the sphere of ideology and talks about preparation, training, and work with cadres.
Among those priorities, the seventh is striking: radically transforming the business system, which may come to nothing or open the door to changes unknown at present. For the rest, measure 12, for example, “face the campaign of political-ideological subversion” indicates that the prime minister does not aspire to change many thngs with the new year.