Raul Castro chaired the Council of Ministers meeting.
HAVANA TIMES — The Cuban government has announced that it will be lowering state expenditures in 2018 to levels inferior to this year, a clear sign of the country’s worsening economic situation.
“The basic premise (of the 2018 plan) is to meet production and service goals through efficiency and a lowering of costs to levels less than in 2017,” notes a Council of Ministers’ assessment of economic behavior in this year’s first quarter.
Information about directives for the 2018 centralized economic plan and State budget appeared last Thursday in Granma newspaper, popping up in an article about the approval of a state strategy to tackle climate change.
In Raul Castro’s presence
Mention of Cuba’s economic situation arose at a meeting of the Council of Ministers, which took place last Tuesday in the presence of President Raul Castro.
Economic proposals seem to be related from paragraph 15 onwards and are based on the statement given by Cuba’s Minister of Economy and Planning, Ricardo Cabrisas, at the meeting.
Cabrisas presented his ideas in order to draw up the Economic Plan and State Budget for 2018, which – according to the minutes taken – took into account “consolidating and ensuring the continuity and sustainability of what had already been approved in the 2017 Plan.”
The minister referred to the need to prioritize “support for production levels and investments linked to exports, substitutes for imports, development programs and infrastructure to meet the needs of the tourism sector; food production and imports; an increase in producing building materials and agricultural supplies; and assuring education, health care, and other basic services for the Cuban people.”
Solutions and balances
He also said that the drawing up of the 2018 Plan needs to distinguish itself for “its search for coherent and sustainable solutions” in order to assure growth and maintaining macroeconomic balances, continuing key development programs and “slight progress in the transformation process of the country’s economic framework.”
He insisted that the plan should be drawn up objectively, adjusted to the resources the country has.”
Cuba’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) shrunk by 0.9% last year, for the first time in the red since 1995. Reversing this negative growth has been the government’s main economic challenge this year.
Cuban authorities have calculated that economic growth this present year will be around 2%, however, indicators from this first semester don’t seem to be very encouraging, while Venezuela continues to experience hard times, Cuba’s main ally and oil supplier.
However, on Thursday, the government affirmed its commitment to implement Agenda 2030 at the first Forum of the Countries of Latin America and the Caribbean on Sustainable Development, which was held in Mexico.
The Cuban Vice-Minister of Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment, Iliana Nunez, said that Cuba is committed to 17 objectives of Sustainable Development.
Nunez pointed out the fact that her country is working on the basis of “a country of economic and social development which includes the top priority ideas until 2030.”
And what about Marino Murillo?
In the statement from the Council of Ministers, no mention was made of Marino Murillo, the tsar of the reforms process undertaken in Cuba who has been silenced by official media for several months now.
Murillo is a vice-president of the Council of Ministers and a member of the State Council. However, he doesn’t appear in the photo of the meeting among the leaders identifiable in the front row at the plenary session.
The Council of Ministers meeting also brought us bad news with regard to paying state organizations’ outstanding accounts, as well as irregularities in foreign trade.
The Minister of Finances and Prices, Lina Pedraza Rodriguez, presented a report which reflects the persistence of a “high concentration of overdue debts between entities in the same sector of the economy, with consequent chains of non-payment.”
Pedraza said that this trend is the reflection of economic contracts not being met and the lack of some companies’ liquidity.
With regard to foreign trade operations, the meeting encountered the same problems that had already been reported or identified in 2016.
Rodrigo Malmierca Diaz, the minister of Foreign Trade and Investment, listed the effects that stem from delays in complaints made because of shortages in shipments that arrive in Cuba, the failures of meeting quality standards and other problems in contracts signed for import and export operations.
He also mentioned that there were damages relating to domestic transportation and ports, as losses continue caused by goods remaining in the port in containers for excess time due to the delays in unloading ships.