Raul Castro Highlights Encouraging Signs in Cuban Economy

Raul Castro Highlights Encouraging Signs in Cuban EconomyHAVANA, Cuba, Aug 1. – Cuban President Raul Castro said today there are encouraging signs of improvement in Cuban economy in the first half of the current year.

Raul delivered a speech the fifth regular session of the National Assembly of People's Power (ANPP) where he said that oil production, the increase of labor productivity above the average wage and a modest rise in exports were signs of improvement.

Other aspects of the economy that the Cuban president mentioned were the increase of visitors, the improvement in the internal monetary equilibrium and the reduction in oil consumption due to a better organization of the transportation system.

"We have also made progress in the postponement of monetary obligations,which we are determined to honor and foreign deposits in Cuban banks have increased as a sign of confidence in the country,"

He said that such progress has been made regardless of the breach of the year’s sugar production plan, of other errors and the rise in energy consumption by the residential sector, “which is growing more than expected.”

Raul said  that, during the Council of Ministers meeting on July 16 and 17, it was agreed on a set of measures to “undertake, in stages, a downsizing of bulky payrolls in the governmental sector."

He pointed out that at this meeting, attended by leaders of the Communist Party of Cuba and the government, the Trades Union Congress of Cuba (CTC),among others, it was adopted to modify the salary amount paid to laid off workers, and eliminate the paternalistic approaches that encourage people
not to work for a living.

“We have to remove once and for all the notion that Cuba is the only country in the world where you can live without working,” he said, and then emphasized that “the strict observance of the principle of adequacy should help to avoid any display of favoritism and gender or other forms
of discrimination.”

He called on the CTC and the Communist Party cadre at all levels to create the political climate and transparency where appropriate and clear information reach workers, in which decisions are properly discussed and the organizational requirements are met.

The Cuban President noted that it was impossible to raise wages, increase exports and replace imports, as well as increasing food production and ultimately maintain enormous social costs of our socialist system generates, without increasing efficiency and productivity.

Raul said these measures will greatly contribute to social and labor discipline and guaranteed no one will be left behind since the government will support those who really need it.

He told the parliamentarians the government will grant new self-employment and commercialization licenses, allowing individuals to hire a labor force. The Council of Ministers meeting approved a tax system appropriate to the new scenario for these new license grantees to contribute to society.

He announced that the CTC will soon meet with its leaders to address these important decisions, “which, by themselves, are structural and concept changes in order to preserve our social system and make it sustainable in the future.”

Raul said that the Economic Policy Committee of the Sixth Congress of the Party and the various groups established for the preparation of proposals are working, to later discuss them with the Party members and the population as a whole.

On another issue, the Cuban President said that by a sovereign decision and strict adherence to the law, in recent days a first group of 21 counterrevolutionary inmates, out of 75 sanctioned in 2003 for crimes against state security, were released and left the country. He explained that 22 had previously been paroled.

He stressed that not one of these persons had been punished for their ideas, but for their crimes against Cuban laws since they were “acting on behalf of United States Government.”

The Revolution, he said, can be generous because it is strong, its strength lies in the overwhelming support of the people who have resisted years of aggression and sacrifice, therefore is not idle to reiterate that there will be no impunity for the enemies of the Motherland, for those who attempt to compromise our independence, stressed Raul.

He said that with regard to Cuba and the U.S., nothing has essentially changed, the Cuban Five remain unjustly imprisoned and suffer abusive treatment, such as the cruelty that is being committed now against Gerardo Hernandez and said that although there is less rhetoric and they hold occasional bilateral talks on specific and limited issues, in fact, the blockade is still being applied.

He added that Cubans continue to act with the calm and patience that they have learned over more than half a century.

Raul concluded by defining the way forward for Cuba was unwavering faith in victory, thus ensuring that the Cuban revolutionaries will not lose any sleep over the difficulties.(acn)