The Party Central Committee Fifth Plenum, presided by its First Secretary, Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, meeting over two intense days, examined issues related to the updating of Cuba’s economic and social model, a complex process which the country began in 2011, when the 6th Party Congress was held.
The first point on the agenda was the evaluation of policies implemented since that time, previously analyzed on two other occasions by the Political Bureau.
Introducing the issue, Marino Murillo Jorge, head of the Implementation and Development Standing Committee, explained that taken into consideration for this analysis were those policies with legal norms established, which had been in place for a enough time to evaluate their impact.
This study was initiated on the request of the Army General Raúl Castro, given the need to review all policies, to be fully informed of what has worked, what needs to be rectified, and what questions created obstacles to the implementation of measures.
The first three years were characterized by the rapid pace of implementation of policies, which later slowed given the complexity of measures under consideration, and because of errors in the planning of processes and their control.
Also having an effect were economic and financial limitations that prevented adequate support for a series of measures that required investments.
During 2016 and 2017, efforts were primarily directed toward perfecting what had already been implemented.
Identified among the general conditions and causes of poor results, was the fact that the Implementation Standing Committee was not always able to involve bodies, agencies, organizations, and entities, so they could direct, train, support, control, and be held accountable for changes at the grassroots level.
Likewise, the lack of a comprehensive approach has been observed, a limited vision of the level of risks involved, and an incomplete appreciation of costs and benefits.
In some cases, deficiencies have been noted in follow-up and supervision of policies implemented, several of which deviated from their original objectives, and were not corrected in a timely fashion.
The Plenum recognized that the updating of the economic and social model has proven to be an issue of great complexity. Added to this is the strong commitment to never leaving any Cuban unprotected, which has had an effect on the pace of change.
Currently being reviewed are all processes underway, and among priorities are the monetary issue, in particular studies on unification of the dual currency and different exchange rates; the National Economic and Social Development Plan through 2030; as well as the comprehensive examination and perfecting of required measures, with relevant proposals.
Photo: Estudio Revolución
Cited as an example of this last priority was the self-employment policy, for which legal norms of a broad scope have been approved and should be rolled out following a training process that will include some 580,000 self-employed workers and more than 30,000 public officials.
Central Committee members also referred to the limited culture of paying taxes existent in the country; the still deficient use of accounting as a fundamental tool in any economic analysis; and difficulties in explaining policies, which has on occasion led to misunderstandings within the population, with regard to these complicated issues, generating misinterpretations because of a lack of information.
Finally, the 5th Central Committee Plenum approved the evaluation report and future actions to ensure progress in the updating of the economic and social model, via greater participation and responsibility on the part of Central State Administration Agencies, national entities, and other bodies.
The Party Central Committee’s First Secretary, Raúl Castro, commented that hard work had been done on the guidelines approved by the 6th and 7th Congresses, saying that despite the errors and shortcomings recognized, the situation is more favorable than it was several years ago.
He defined, as the fundamental task of all Communists, confronting problems without hesitation, right away; planning more carefully to direct resources to where they are truly needed; and not waiting for solutions from above, but rather contributing creative, rational ideas.
He reiterated the importance of the most minimal savings, adjusting ourselves to the reality in which we live. We must move forward on the problems, struggle resolutely and intelligently, maintaining the nation’s unity, he said.
In this sense, he recalled the difficult moments of the Special Period in the 1990s, when the country faced an extreme situation. Since then, he commented, the panorama has changed, but we must recognize that we have much to do in terms of planning our economy, since wasteful attitudes still exist, when the line to follow is one of conservation and efficiency.
He remembered that the Revolution, which he described as our most beautiful work, has been obliged to face and overcome all kinds of obstacles, since its very beginnings, emphasizing that, given new challenges, the spirit of determination and combativity that has characterized our people must prevail, without a trace of pessimism, and full confidence in the future.
Those attending the Plenum analyzed in detail the country’s housing policy program, on which work has been underway for some time, on the basis of the Economic and Social Policy Guidelines of the Party and the Revolution.
Minister of Construction René Mesa Villafaña insisted on the importance of addressing the issue of housing in a different way, using all resources available in the country, in an orderly fashion.
The program was developed taking into consideration the current condition of the country’s housing stock, and the implementation of a strategy to halt deterioration, and then advance in repairs and resolving the problem.
In Cuba, a little more than 3,824,000 dwellings exist in the country, according to the last Population and Housing Census conducted in 2012, and other evaluations completed through June of 2017. Of this total, 39% are in average or poor technical condition.
Projections for the recovery of the country’s housing stock indicate that an effort of at least 10 years is required, with priority given to the most seriously deteriorated homes during the first five years.
To undertake the task, significant investment will be made in the cement industry, with the remodeling of the Siguaney plant, in Sancti Spíritus, as well as the modernization of the ceramics factory in Holguín, which will substantially increase the volume of tiles and bathroom fixtures produced.
Along with these investments, projected is the development of local construction materials production, which in the last five years has grown annually between eight and 11 percent. At the close of 2016, a total of 57 product lines were being manufactured in 168 municipalities, using raw and recycled materials available locally.
This year, to be installed are 423 mini-industries in municipalities and People’s Councils, which will join those already operational in provinces.
Participants in the Plenum underscored the importance of local production of materials, as the housing policy’s fundamental support, since they provide solutions close at hand, allow for collective participation, and strengthen the role of municipalities in the solution of housing problems.
All actors possible will participate in the intense construction movement which the country will undertake, including families, state construction organizations, cooperatives, as well as construction companies affiliated with Provincial Administration Councils and the country’s state enterprise system.
Army General Raúl Castro Ruz reiterated that the housing policy must include and promote respect for urban and land use regulations, demanding compliance from state institutions first, and then the population. It is not about prohibiting construction in any given place, he insisted, but rather doing so in an orderly manner, where elementary conditions exist to do so.
He called on members of the Central Committee to analyze the report presented more carefully and discuss it with other colleagues and specialists in their respective areas, with the purpose of going deeper and contributing new considerations before it is approved for implementation by the government.
STUDIES ON CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM
At another point during the meeting, Council of State Secretary Homero Acosta Álvarez presented a report to Central Committee members, approved by the Political Bureau, on studies underway concerning a future reform of the Constitution, which must reflect the principal economic, social, and political changes made in accordance with agreements reached at the Party’s 6th and 7th Congresses, and the objectives of the First National Conference – and at the same time reaffirm the irrevocable nature of our socialism and the leading role of the Party in Cuba society.
The reform will reflect experience gained by the Revolution over the years, particularly in the organization and functioning of People’s Power bodies and the exercise of fundamental rights by citizens. It will have as references our constitutional history, as well as similar processes in other countries.