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    The worst year under Raúl Castro

    The worst year under Raúl Castro
    ORLANDO FREIRE SANTANA | La Habana | 30 de Diciembre de 2016 – 22:48 CET.

    It is no secret that the sessions of the National Assembly of the
    People’s Power are a mere formality. Documents are discussed and
    approved that have been “cooked up” by those in the upper echelons of
    power, no representative dares suggest an approach contravening the
    established script, and the votes are always unanimous.

    However, this last session of the National Assembly was characterized by
    a particular pallor. It seemed that this time, in a way more evident
    than in the past, the conclave was undertaken as a burdensome chore.

    The Standing Committees of the Parliament did not meet in the days prior
    to the session of the Assembly; there was no Plenum of the Party’s
    Central Committee, for members to “coordinate” the views that they would
    express at the Assembly; and Mr. Marino Murillo did not even bother to
    report on progress with regards to the updating of the economic model.
    Also of note was the fact that the press did not report at the time – as
    had occurred in recent months ­– on the meeting of the Council of
    Ministers, held on Saturday, 24 December.

    Actually, it is not difficult to identify at least one of the causes of
    the Government’s despondency: this time there were only calamities to
    report. Indeed, this 2016 was the worst year for the economy since Raúl
    Castro came to power. They had no choice but to recognize the dip in the
    Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and also had to admit that they failed to
    follow through on the export plan, and were unable to pay suppliers for
    many of the imports that the country had to bring in.

    And, as almost always happens in these cases, it was evident that the
    regime places the blame on certain shoulders. Among other culprits, they
    singled out the Ministries of Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment
    (MINCEX), Agriculture (MINAGRI), and the Food Industry (MINAL).

    Few would have wanted to be in the shoes of Rodrigo Malmierca, Minister
    of MINCEX, when the General-President expressed his dissatisfaction with
    the pace of foreign investment, due to excessive delays in the
    negotiating process on the Cuban side, and the prejudices that still
    exist against foreign investment. The situation is so alarming that the
    2017 plan envisions only 6.5% of total investment proceeding from
    foreign investors.

    The aforementioned 2017 plan aims to import 82 million USD in food than
    the previous year. The reason for this additional outlay, a heavy burden
    given the precarious state of the country’s external finances, is
    failures by the MINAGRI and MINAL to meet food production goals.

    Incidentally, on Sunday, December 25 the newspaper Juventud Rebelde
    published a report in which it was announced that the MINAL’s processing
    industry had been unable to handle all the mango harvested, such that
    much of that fruit had been wasted.

    The truth is that at this session of the National Assembly the Minister
    of the Economy and Planning, Ricardo Cabrisas, used the term “critical
    situation” to refer to the state of the food industry on the Island. In
    this regard he suggested coming up with a medium-term program to turn
    the situation around. The days of María del Carmen Concepción – Carmita,
    as Raúl Castro tends to call her – as at the helm of the MINAL are numbered.

    In the end, the apprehension could extend to all the members of the
    elite present at the meeting. Because, in addition to calling for an
    increase in exports, and continuing down the path of import
    substitution, the 2017 plan envisages reducing non-essential expenses to
    a bare minimum, such that even those nice little trips abroad could be

    And what about monetary unification? The subject was conspicuously
    absent from this session of the National Assembly.

    Source: The worst year under Raúl Castro | Diario de Cuba –