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    Raúl Castro Says Cuba Must Reform Its Economy Cautiously

    Raúl Castro Says Cuba Must Reform Its Economy Cautiously
    Island’s President Wants Only Gradual Change, Despite Weak and Slowing
    Associated Press
    July 5, 2014 10:56 p.m. ET

    Cuba’s President Raúl Castro speaking on Saturday, during this year’s
    first of two regularly scheduled legislative sessions. Associated Press
    HAVANA—President Raúl Castro reiterated on Saturday that Cuba’s program
    of reforms will remain cautious and gradual, despite recent
    disappointing growth data that show the country’s struggling economy is

    Days after Cuba downgraded its 2014 economic growth forecast by nearly a
    percentage point, Mr. Castro told parliament during the first of its
    twice-annual regular sessions that the reforms “have great complexity
    but are advancing” at the necessary pace.

    “This process, to be successful, must be conducted with the appropriate
    gradualness and be accompanied by the permanent control of different
    party and government structures at all levels,” Mr. Castro said in a
    25-minute speech.

    “Gradualness is not a whim, much less a desire to delay the changes that
    we must make,” he added. “On the contrary, it is about a need to ensure
    order and avoid gaps that would lead us directly to mistakes that
    distort the proposed objectives.”

    Foreign journalists weren’t allowed into the one-day session at a
    convention center in western Havana. His comments were broadcast later
    on state television.

    Meanwhile, Vice President Marino Murillo, Mr. Castro’s reforms czar,
    said a nascent project to eliminate Cuba’s unique dual-currency system
    is continuing and warned islanders that monetary unification itself
    won’t increase their purchasing power. “For that to happen, we must
    produce more,” Mr. Murillo said.

    Cuban pesos, right, pictured in March next to Cuban convertible pesos.
    The Communist country plans to move to a single currency, a reform many
    say is one of the toughest challenges in kick-starting the island’s
    moribund economy. Reuters
    Cuba’s economy minister said at the end of June that officials were
    lowering their expectations for growth of gross domestic product to 1.4%
    for the year, from a previous forecast of 2.2% and from 2.7% recorded
    for last year.

    Mr. Castro and other officials say the reforms don’t amount to an
    embrace of capitalism, but are rather an update of Cuba’s socialist
    model to survive in the 21st-century global economy.

    Cuba has decentralized state-owned enterprises, legalized home and used
    car sales and let hundreds of thousands of people open or work for small
    businesses in the private sector.

    Parliament also considered a report on Saturday from the comptroller’s
    office on its attempts to root out corruption. Specifics weren’t given
    on the nightly newscast.

    Official media reported that Agriculture Minister Gustavo Rodriguez said
    Cuba’s food imports have reached $2 billion a year, but the government
    believes the island could produce 60% of that.

    Cuba’s parliament typically meets twice a year, once in the summer and
    again in December. Lawmakers also had called an extraordinary session
    this past spring to approve a law that seeks to attract badly needed
    foreign investment.

    Source: Raúl Castro Says Cuba Must Reform Its Economy Cautiously and
    Gradually – WSJ –