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Cuba resists speedy economic reforms

President Raul Castro insists reforms must be carried out gradually despite poor GDP growth.

Last updated: 06 Jul 2014 03:01
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Castro and other officials say the reforms do not amount to an embrace of capitalism [AP]

President Raul Castro has reiterated that Cuba's programme of reforms will remain cautious and gradual, despite recent disappointing gross domestic product (GDP) numbers that show the country's already-struggling economy slowing.

Days after Cuba downgraded its 2014 economic growth forecast by nearly a percentage point, 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," 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 were not allowed access to the one-day session at a convention center in western Havana. His comments were broadcast later on state TV.

Gradualness is not a whim ... it is about a need to ensure order and avoid gaps that would lead us directly to mistakes.

- Raul Castro, President of Cuba

Dual currency elimination

Vice President Marino Murillo, 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 will not increase their purchasing power.

"For that to happen, we must produce more," Murillo said.

Cuba's economy minister announced at the end of June that officials were lowering their GDP growth expectations to 1.4 percent for the year, down from a previous forecast of 2.2 percent for 2014 and from 2.7 growth recorded last year.

Castro and other officials say the reforms do not amount to an embrace of capitalism, but are rather an update of Cuba's socialist model.

Cuba has decentralised state-owned enterprises, legalised 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. No specifics were given on the nightly newscast.

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

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

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Source:
AP
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