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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 –

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