HAVANA – President Raul Castro acknowledged on Friday that Cuba’s economy is going through some “adverse circumstances” that make spending cuts a necessity, but rejected “omens” of an imminent collapse.
In the first half of the year, the economy grew by 1 percent, just half of the projected increase, Castro told the National Assembly.
That result, he said, was conditioned by such factors as lower than expected export revenues plus “a certain drop in the fuel supply from Venezuela compared to the amount contracted,” and the continued effects of the U.S. economic embargo.
Under these adverse circumstances, the Cabinet adopted a series of measures aimed at “protecting the chief activities that ensure a strong economy, and minimizing the elements most unfavorable for the people,” Castro said in a speech cited by official media.
The president rebuffed “speculations” whose purpose is to “sow pessimism and uncertainty” about an “imminent collapse” of the economy with a consequent “return to the toughest phase of the special period” decreed in the early 1990s after the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of annual subsidies from Moscow.
“We don’t deny there might be some difficulties, even more than at present, but we’re prepared and in better shape than we were then to counteract them,” he said.
After warning that there is no room for improvisation “and even less for defeatism,” Castro said it is necessary “to reduce all expenditures that are not absolutely essential,” while promoting the efficient use of available resources.
The measures to be rolled out by the government will also be aimed at concentrating investments in activities that produce revenues, substitute imports and help strengthen infrastructure.
“To sum it up, the idea is not to detain the nation’s development in the slightest degree,” said the Cuban president, who also guaranteed the preservation and higher quality of social services.
Castro reaffirmed his mission to continue modernizing the island’s economic model “at a rate that we determine will forge the consensus and unity of the Cuban people in the construction of socialism.”