Cuba: National Assembly approves economic changes; Raul Castro's speech
"More than once, I have stated that our own worst enemy is not imperialism but our own errors and that these, if they are deeply and honestly analysed, can be transformed into lessons in order not to fall into them again." -- Raúl Castro
By President Raúl Castro
Speech given by President Raúl Castro Ruz, president of the Councils of State and Ministers, to the 7th ordinary session of the 7th legislature of the National Assembly of People’s Power, August 1, 2011. The parliament earlier that day also adopted the amended Guidelines of the Economic and Social Policy of the Party and the Revolution as state policy.
Compañeras and compañeros:
Considering the fact that in the last few days we have held a number of meetings, among them a much expanded Council of Ministers, the central event for the 58th anniversary of July 26, the 2nd plenum of the central committee of the Communist Party this past Saturday [July 30, 2011], likewise with many invitees, my address to the National Assembly will be brief, as I am not going to repeat what was stated in those activities.
Moreover, the deputies in their respective commissions and in the plenary session have analysed the detailed information on the progress of the economy in the first six months and estimates for the rest of the year, as well as approving the final accounts for the 2010 budget.
They have also been informed about the constitution and functioning of the Implementation and Development Permanent Commission, created as part of the agreements of the 6th congress of the Communist Party of Cuba to lead the process of updating the Cuban economic model in a harmonic and integral manner.
At the same time, parliament today agreed to support and approve, in their spirit and letter, the Guidelines of the Economic and Social Policy of the Party and the Revolution, which will translate into increased legislative work to draft the legal and institutional bases in favour of the country’s functional, structural and economic changes.
To this same end the National Assembly has authorised the implementation of an experiment in Artemisa and Mayabeque provinces in the interest of separating the functions of the People’s Power Assemblies and those of the administrative councils, with the objective of studying this experiment for its future generalisation, which will previously require the relevant modifications in the constitution of the republic.
That releases me from entering into details and allows me to concentrate on more substantive aspects.
In the first six months of the year the economy grew by 1.9% in relation to the same period last year and it is estimated that this year should end with a 2.9% growth of its gross domestic product (GDP).
While the results in general are positive, shortcomings persist in agriculture and in the food, iron and steel, light and construction materials industries due to planning errors and a lack of integrality in directing these sectors of the economy.
Despite the still existing inadequacies, it can be affirmed that the energy efficiency of the national economy improved, crude oil production grew and although the volume of its accompanying gas diminished slightly, it is estimated that the year plan will be met.
On the other hand, the deterioration in sugar production was halted, and there was significant growth in the arrival of tourists. Superior results were also obtained in various sectors and an adequate internal monetary balance has been preserved, while a favourable correlation between productivity and the average wage has been maintained.
Exports increased and imports decreased. However a tense situation continues in terms of foreign finances, albeit partially alleviated by debt restructuring processes with our principal creditors, which has contributed to a continued reduction of retentions from transfers abroad and places us in a position to confirm that these will be definitely lifted before the end of this year, as the minister of economy and planning announced.
We will persist in efforts to gradually recoup the Cuban economy’s international credibility.
In its June meeting, the Council of Ministers approved the general guidelines for drawing up the plan for next year, which must overcome the still present inconsistencies and inadequate reconciliation.
In 2012 the national economy will remain subject to the effects of the global economic crisis, the escalation of food prices announced by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the prices of fuel and other raw materials will remain high, and restrictions on obtaining fresh funding, over and above those derived from the US blockade, will continue.
These realities oblige us to accelerate improvements in the work of the leadership of entities and to redouble the retraining of leaders at all levels, in order to make the content of the guidelines approved by the 6th party congress a reality, particularly those referring to increasing the role of accounting and internal controls as irreplaceable instruments of business management and also of contracts, a decisive factor in the interrelation of the different actors within the nation’s economic life.
It is becoming essential to reinstate financial discipline in the economy and end the superficiality and negligence which characterise the relation between debits and credits in the country.
In terms of investments, it is a fact that there have been advances, but there is still a long way to go in order to eradicate improvisation and expensive irrationalities.
'All opinions must be discussed'
To move on to another matter. In response to the agreements of the 6th congress, the Implementation and Development Permanent Commission has been created to oversee the process of updating the economic model, including operational and structural improvements within government at all levels, and which, alongside proposing, in the short term, the introduction of specific changes in various spheres of economic life, is to draft the integral theoretic conceptualisation of the Cuban socialist economy, a task which, as is understandable, will require much time and effort.
The Council of Ministers also approved the initial basic functional structure and composition of this commission, defining its working principles, among which it is important to note that it does not replace the institutional responsibilities of bodies and entities, while maintaining the precept that all opinions must be discussed and when consensus is not reached, the discrepancies will be raised before higher bodies authorized to make decisions.
Knowing Cubans and given its importance, I repeat: all opinions must be discussed and when consensus is not reached, the discrepancies will be raised before higher bodies authorised to make decisions and, moreover, nobody is mandated to prevent that.
Aside from the organisational definitions of the commission’s work, different decisions have been adopted by the government in accordance with the guidelines; among them, the additional flexibility of self-employed work and its taxation system; the approval of the policy to simplify procedures for transferring ownership of houses and vehicles between citizens; the banking policy and that of credits to Cubans, including self-employed workers; defining the bases for the drafting of the new taxation law; a reduction in the sale prices of tools and supplies to agricultural producers, and the marketing of various implements and machines whose sale was not allowed, and bulk-packaged products in response to non-state forms of management.
Another set of measures remain under consideration for their implementation in the next few months, which I will not mention at this point in view of the information given in this session of the assembly.
A painful incident
I am now going to refer to a painful incident caused by errors in the implementation of cadre policy and attitudes toward religion, which prompted the unjust replacement of a compañera in the post in which she was working and achieving good results. Upon approaching this issue publicly my objective is to repair this injustice and, in passing, to offer an eloquent example of the damage inflicted on persons and the Revolution itself by obsolete concepts, also against the law, still rooted in the mentality of more than a few leaders at all levels.
The abovementioned compañera, whose identity, workplace and even province I shall not reveal, not for the sake of useless secrecy, but out of respect for her privacy, is of modest origins, married and the mother of two, all three being members of the party, as is her already retired husband. With an outstanding work history, she became the victim of the dominant mentality at distinct levels of the party and state, because of professing religious beliefs and on occasions, attending services at the church in her locality.
It was considered dishonest that she, as a member of the party and an administrative cadre, had not mentioned her religiosity – something on the other hand that she was not obliged to do and which constitutes a flagrant violation of citizens’ rights as endorsed in the constitution of the republic, whose Article 43 on this subject states:
The state establishes the right won by the Revolution that citizens, regardless of race, skin color, gender, religious belief, national origin and any other factor used in detriment to human dignity:
- Have access, according to their merits and capacities, to all posts and jobs in the state and public administration sector and in the production and provision of services...
Then the decision to dismiss her from her post was masked by the implementation of the measure “released for renewal of contract”, wielding the pretext that although she her work showed magnificent results, there were no promotion possibilities on the horizon and thus she should give her post to another compañero. To further complicate the situation, they instructed her not to mention the religious issue in her workplace or in the party nucleus during the assessment of her replacement.
All of that happened in February of this year; she began to work in another entity, losing 40% of her salary in the process, continued to be a member of the party and silently resigned, given the pain of the injustice committed, until – having studied the central report to the 6th congress – on April 17, the day after the congress began, she decided to send a complaint to the president of the Councils of State and Ministers, after which a investigation was initiated which corroborated everything that she stated.
Of course, the compañera, if she so wishes, must have her previous post restored to her, as was agreed in the 2nd plenum of the central committee this past July 30 and, over and above her absolutely personal decision, these words should serve as an act of moral vindication.
Now, what can be learned from this bitter experience and the damage done to a Cuban family by attitudes based on an archaic mentality, fed by simulation and opportunism? More than once, I have stated that our own worst enemy is not imperialism but our own errors and that these, if they are deeply and honestly analysed, can be transformed into lessons in order not to fall into them again. Thus we have to review all aspects of this narrow and exclusive vision in a definitive way, and adjust it to the reality which emanates from the 4th congress [of the Communist Party] in 1991, which changed the interpretation of the statutes which limited revolutionaries with beliefs from membership of the organisation, and now those of the 6th congress of the party.
Many years ago our revolution overcame the scenes of confrontation with some of the religious institutions, a stage during which both parties committed excesses of greater or lesser magnitude. We are also aware of the enemy’s aspirations to foment confrontation and distrust between believers and the revolutionary process, calculations which have proved themselves erroneous because, from the outset, the vast majority of Cubans from modest backgrounds with religious beliefs supported the Revolution.
To anyone who is in any doubt about that, I would recommend that they read the Bush (Junior) plan for transition in Cuba, which we know has not been abolished, and the role to be allocated to all the religious organisations in its subversive strategy against our country and which, despite the failure reaped, we know that these intentions have not been given up
On this point Fidel himself has stated a lot over many years and most recently in the central report to the party congress, in which the call was made, and I quote, “To continue eliminating any prejudice which impedes unity in virtue and in the defense of our Revolution among all Cubans, believers or not…”.
For that reason I do not consider it necessary to go any further into the issue, but I will just emphasise that attitudes like those criticised here endanger our principal weapon for consolidating independence and national sovereignty; in other words, the unity of the nation.
That act demonstrates, once again, that the greatest obstacle which we face in terms of fulfilling the agreements of the 6th congress is the psychological barrier created by inertia, resistance to change, simulation or double standards, indifference and insensitivity, a barrier which we are obliged to surmount with constancy and firmness; in the first place, leaders of the party, state and government in the different national, provincial and municipal bodies.
We shall be patient but also persevering in the face of the resistances to change, whether these are conscious or unconscious. I warn that any bureaucratic resistance to the strict fulfillment of the congress agreements, massively supported by the people, is useless.
I have never been in favour of pressure or of abrupt changes, I would eminently prefer to reason, convince, educate and join the debate than punish, but in the face of violations of the constitution and established legality there is no alternative but to have recourse to the Attorney General’s Office and the courts, as we have already begun to do, in order to ensure that offenders are held accountable, whomsoever they might be, because all Cubans, without exception, are equal before the law.
Without a change of mentality, we will not be capable of accomplishing the changes needed to guarantee the sustainability – or, what is the same – irrevocability of the socialist nature and of the political and social system enshrined in the constitution of the republic.
Let us clear our minds of stupidities of all kinds, don’t forget that the first decade of the 21st century has already ended, and it is time to do so.
In the closing words of the day before yesterday to the members of the central committee and invitees, touching on this theme and proposing that these words should be said here, in the form that they have, I recalled that this compañera was born – according to the data – in January of 1953. I went on to recall that that was the year of the assault on the Moncada [garrison] and I said to the members of the central committee, “I didn’t go to the Moncada for that."
In the same way, we recalled that July 30, the day of that meeting, was the 54th anniversary of the assassination of Frank País and his faithful companion Raúl Pujol. I met Frank in Mexico, and saw him again in the Sierra [Maestra]; I do not remember ever having known a soul as pure as that, so courageous, so revolutionary, so noble and modest, and addressing one of those responsible for the injustice that was committed. I said to him, “Frank believed in God and practiced his religion, as far as I know, he never stopped doing so. What would all of have done with Frank País?
I shall now move on to another current aspect. As part of measures being assessed along the path of reducing prohibitions and regulations issued at other moments of the revolutionary process in legitimate defence in the face of aggressions to which we have been subjected during more than 50 years, and also to modify a number of decisions which played their role in specific circumstances and afterwards lasted unnecessarily, I am taking the opportunity to inform deputies and citizens that we are currently working on updating the emigration policy in force, in the function of which we have been advancing in reformulating and drafting a series of regulations in this sphere, adjusting them to present and foreseeable future conditions.
We are taking this step as a contribution to increased links between the nation and the émigré community, whose composition has varied radically in relation to the initial decades of the Revolution, during which the government of the United States gave shelter to criminals from the Batista dictatorship, to terrorists and traitors of all kinds, and incited professionals to flee in order to bleed the country dry. Let us recall, to mention just one example, that out of the 6000 doctors that we had at the beginning of the Revolution, half of them – 3000 – left the country in 1959.
Today, the overwhelming majority of Cubans are émigrés for economic reasons, even though there are still a few who allege that they are the victims of political persecution in order to win supporters and help from their sponsors abroad, or to justify abandoning a mission or contract. What is a fact is that almost all of them conserve their love for the family and homeland which saw them born and, in different ways, demonstrate solidarity toward their compatriots.
It is precisely aspirations to improve living standards which constitute the principal motivation for migratory movements, not only in Cuba, but at global level, additionally encouraged by the barefaced brain drain practiced by the powerful nations to the detriment of Third World development.
In our case, we cannot forget that we are the only country on the planet whose citizens are allowed to remain and work in the territory of the United States without any kind of visa, independently of the legality of the means utilised to arrive there, in virtue of the criminal Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966, 45 years ago, and the so-called “dry foot-wet foot” policy which incites the trafficking of persons and has led to the death of numerous innocent people.
This sensitive issue has been the object of political and media manipulation for many years in order to denigrate the Revolution and cause a rift between it and Cubans living abroad.
Nobody in the international corporate media talks about the abovementioned Adjustment Act; it is as if it didn’t exist. As a result of a lie repeated thousands of times, Cuban émigrés are called “political exiles” who are escaping communism. In other words, for Cuban citizens, it is a matter of “escaping”, while those from the rest of the world emigrate.
What would happen in the United States or the European Union if a Latin American, Asian or African Adjustment Act should come into effect? The reply is obvious. There is the gigantic wall built along the northern border of Mexico and the thousands of deaths which, year after year, occur in deserts and seas adjoining the centers of world power.
As is logical, making the emigration policy more flexible will take into account the right of the revolutionary state to defend itself from the interventionist and subversive plans of the US government and its allies and, at the same time, will include reasonable countermeasures to preserve the human capital created by the Revolution in the face of the brain drain used by the powerful.
That is all on the issue of emigration.
On the other hand, it is an opportune occasion to send, in the name of the National Assembly deputies and all of the Cuban people, our congratulations to the president of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, compañero Hugo Chávez Frías, on his recent birthday, and to convey to him our admiration for his exemplary spirit of struggle against adversity, as is the case with true revolutionaries, and our total confidence that he will overcome this new test that life has imposed on him.
Finally, this session of the National Assembly began with the adoption, by acclamation of the deputies, of an agreement demanding that the government of the United States should immediately end the unjust and illegal treatment of Gerardo Hernández Nordelo, and calling for increased solidarity on the part of parliamentarians and honest persons all over the world until the liberation of our five heroes and their unconditional return to the homeland are obtained. It is precisely on this matter that I wish to end my words, sending them a strong embrace and the irrevocable determination of all of our people to never cease in the struggle for your freedom.
Thank you very much. (Applause)
Translated by Granma International, via Havana Times.