14ymedio, Havana, 23 May 2023 — The two highest powers in Cuba will meet this Tuesday. While the Parliament will discuss for two days “the constitutional design of the State and elements of the Constitution,” the Communist Party began its Sixth Plenary of the Central Committee focused on economic aspects. Both meetings take place a few days after Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitri Chernishenko, during his visit to Havana, suggested “some modifications” in the legislation before the country is completely incorporated into Moscow’s “roadmap.”
The call for the Plenary was only disseminated in the official media on Monday, something that has made Cubans suspicious about the importance of these meetings, which define everything from economic policies to cultural guidelines. The urgency of the date and the context of serious crisis that the Island is experiencing, together with Chernishenko’s statements, predict that important announcements will emanate from this event.
Chaired by Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel, the plenary of the Party is attended as special guests by Deputy Prime Ministers Ramiro Valdés and Ricardo Cabrisas — head of Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment — and the Minister of the Armed Forces, General Joaquín Quinta Solá, who will also assess the “compliance” with the Political and Economic Guidelines of the Government and evaluate the role of the National Assembly and the Party. It was not announced, however, whether Raúl Castro will be at any of the sessions.
As for the meetings of the National Assembly, the deputies will also discuss “the laws that regulate the functioning of the different structures of People’s Power,” while the Party will focus the conversation on the “assessments, criticisms and proposals” about the Cuban economy that they have received from 48,000 population centers throughout the Island.
The highlight, the official press points out, will be the discussion about the “development of the economy” and “the solution of economic problems (of) a high priority,” but little else has been said about this accountability.
The announcement of the meetings has been commented on by Cuban economist Pedro Monreal on Twitter. He asks Havana, first of all, for “data instead of a story” and suggests, before any analysis, to attend to the “verifiable situation” as presented in May 2023. He criticizes the Party plans to follow the dynamic of “counting ’fulfillments’” by passing them off as achievements, and asks the Party to “self-critically evaluate the results.”
In addition, he recalls the priorities, at least on paper, during the “update” of the Guidelines in 2021: solving the country’s structural problems and favoring the socialist state enterprise; promoting agricultural development; replacing imports with local production; an adequate flow of exports; boosting tourism; achieving financial balance and “improving consumption and the standard of living of the population.”
The plan crashes against reality point by point, since the official sources themselves confirm — this same month — that 480 state companies (24% of the total) closed the previous year with losses. The profit on the net sales of those same companies reached 17.2%, which represented a loss of 20.9 billion pesos. As a result, in 2023 the State will have to spend 52 billion on subsidies and another billion to make up for the losses.
As for structural problems, food and agriculture, it is evident, Monreal maintains, that the “food security crisis, instability and usual deficit of energy supply,” the “acute fuel crisis” and non-compliance with exports shatters the Government’s plan.
Regarding tourism, the level of expected visitors was not reached in 2022 either, and the forecast had to be rectified on several occasions. Not to mention, Monreal points out, the low rate of hotel occupancy, which also warns about the “absence of official data on the general level of foreign investment,” which the regime has stimulated with “fiscal and discriminatory investments with respect to national capital.”
As for the “consolidation” of the Ordering Task* — another of the great objectives of the Party during the last two years — Monreal details its “resounding failure,” since state workers are not “in better condition,” as the Government promised in 2021. In addition, the Government abandoned two essential features of the Task: monetary and exchange rate unification, leading to a “persistent macroeconomic imbalance with no solution in sight” and a growing dollarization of the economy.
Scientific and technological development also failed, a reality that eloquencely demonstrates the fact that the State has only invested 0.7% of its budget to boost the sector in 2021 and 2022.
And, finally, the failure is also evident in terms of social justice, improvements in consumption and elevation of the quality of life. “The absence of official data on levels of poverty and inequality fail to cover up the increase in those two dimensions of social exclusion,” says Monreal, in addition to pointing out that the purchasing power of Cuban families has been drastically reduced in recent years.
The economist demands from Parliament and the Communist Party a clear analysis of all these factors to assess whether 2023 will be a “better year” for Cuba. “Anything else would be dull propaganda or incompetence,” he summarizes.
*The Ordering Task is a collection of measures that include eliminating the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC), leaving the Cuban peso as the only national currency, raising prices, raising salaries (but not as much as prices), opening stores that take payment only in hard currency, which must be in the form of specially issued pre-paid debit cards, and a broad range of other measures targeted to different elements of the Cuban economy.
Translated by Regina Anavy
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