Cuban President said that the economic battle is the fundamental and most complex task
The economic battle is the fundamental and most complex task, but it is the one the people expect the most, said Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, President of the Councils of State and Ministers, at the closing of the second session of the 9th legislature of the National Assembly of People’s Power.
The Cuban leader expressed deep satisfaction for the process of popular consultation of the new constitution that was approved on Saturday, which showed the political culture of the population, the sense of belonging and an approach to the concerns of the people.
He said that the new Constitution reaffirms the socialist course of the Revolution, and directs the work of the State, the Government and political and mass organizations in the improvement of society, strengthens institutionality, and endorses greater inclusion, social justice and empowerment of the people.
He pointed out that the referendum of February 24, 2019 will be a genuine demonstration of the people’s power, the participatory and democratic character of society and evidence that fundamental decisions are built with the contribution of all.
Diaz-Canel valued 2018 as a year in which there has been an impulse to electronic government and greater efficiency in economic management, but as a first step that in 2019 must find new stages of development.
This year, he said, had hard tests, such as flooding in the central provinces and the plane crash that left a toll of 112 deaths and one survivor, problems faced with the support of the wisdom that gives collective leadership and commitment to solving the problems of the population.
He added that despite the discrete growth of the Gross Domestic Product the economy presents a positive sign that is expressed, for example, in the increase of minimum pensions to retirees and people benefited with annual assistance, which represents a cost to the State budget of 224 million pesos and is the partial advance of measures that will be adopted to improve the situation of salaries, benefits, subsidies and free assigments.
He valued the communications sector as one of the largest contributors to GDP in view of the increase in access to the Internet and mobile telephony, while the sugar industry and, to a lesser extent, agriculture had the greatest negative impact.
Despite Hurricane Irma and the measures adopted by the U.S. government to hinder travel to the island, the tourism sector will end up growing compared to 2017, with a new record number of visitors, he said.
He stressed that in the midst of all these adverse factors, social services were guaranteed: the infant mortality rate will close with a rate of 4 per thousand live births, similar to last year’s, and the lowest in Cuba’s history, in addition to a boost to the housing program as a result of a policy approved by the Council of Ministers.
He explained that by 2019, similar levels of economic growth are expected, with a recovery in sectors such as the sugar industry, communications and transport, but with levels that allow the demands for development to be satisfied, so it is necessary to work on the objectives defined for the coming years.
In this sense, the Cuban President indicated as priorities the increase of income from exports, the increase of national production capacities, and the contributions of self-employed workers, who currently represent five percent of income to the State budget.
Diaz-Canel said that despite the country’s tense financial situation, non-compliance with exports of goods and services and the impact of natural disasters, additional control measures in the economy made it possible to ensure Plan 2018, in which growth was achieved with a positive balance in the trade balance and current account.
He called for a more proactive attitude on the part of leaders, mobilizing planning and strengthening economic teams with experts to help articulate their knowledge with what is needed.
In his closing remarks, the president called for responsibility in the use of financing, preventing superfluous expenditures in government activity, increasing control and taking advantage of the experiences of socialist countries such as China, Vietnam and Laos.
Referring to the economic plan for 2019, he stressed that it has been conceived on sustainable bases to, despite the difficulties, contribute to the restoration of the nation’s financial credibility.
In this regard, he pointed to the development of strategic sectors, including the sugarcane harvest, the computerization of society and investments in wind and photovoltaic farms.
He announced that in the first quarter of 2019 there will be an extraordinary session of the National Assembly of People’s Power, which will discuss the National Economic and Social Development Plan until 2030 in its three stages and the state of implementation of the Guidelines.
He recalled that new rules for self-employment recently came into force, measures that most consider necessary.
Self-employed workers are not enemies of the Revolution, they have solved problems that burden the State and rescued necessary trades, he said, while ratifying that there is no intention to curb their development, only to order their exercise in order for them to function properly.
He also appreciated that there are those who try to distort Decree 349, “Contraventions of the regulations on cultural policy and on the provision of artistic services”, which obeyed a need and a demand of the artists themselves.
Diaz-Canel recognized that the same should be more discussed and better explained, because of its importance, and called to do now what should be done before.
Artistic creation in Cuba is free and will continue to be so, said the president.
He emphasized that as part of the system of work for the exercise of government, the development programs are systematically followed and that they summoned and continue a battle against illegalities and corruption.
Díaz-Canel referred to the complexity of the current international scenario, and recalled that at the recent ALBA-TCP summit, held in Havana, pronouncements of solidarity with Venezuela and Nicaragua were made.
He also spoke of the position adopted by Brazilian President-elect Jair Bolsonaro, which led to Cuba not continuing to participate in the More Doctors program in that South American nation.
To feel passion and pride for what we are, at the same time as impatience and anguish for what we do not achieve, rather than suffering, turns the transit of the coming years into an act of triumph crowned by all of us who have surrendered and the certainty that fighting is victory.
We always go for more, and with all the living generations together in homage to those who sacrificed everything. It is possible to overcome all obstacles if the people accompany us, he concluded.
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