Cuban News Agency
Speech by General of the Army Raúl Castro Ruz, first vice president of the Councils of State and Ministers, to the National Assembly of People’s Power, on December 28, 2007, Year 49 of the Revolution
Compañeras and compañeros:
We have had a good meeting on the Economic Plan and Budget approved for next year. Above all, it has been the briefest in history.
The objective of this speech is to share some reflections with you on the economic and social situation of the country.
Without any doubt this last year has been one of intense work with the active participation of all the people. Less than three months have gone by since the conclusion of the 215,687 meetings organized in the context of the discussion promoted by our Party, based on the concepts expressed at the central event for the 54th anniversary of the assault on the Moncada and Carlos Manuel de Céspedes Garrisons.
When our Party called for reflections on what was posed on July 26 in Camagüey, the objective was not for us to get to know about problems. Really, the majority of them are known and I talked about many of them on that occasion, at least on the ones that we consider fundamental to the well-being of the population and the effective socioeconomic functioning of the country.
That our appreciation is correct has been confirmed by more than five million citizens in the meetings for study and reflection that took place during September and October, and described as needed and useful.
Many of the proposals refer to local problems or are related to the deficiencies and errors of specific people; so those will have to be confronted and solved in a direct manner where they are occurring.
In response, the different leadership levels of the Party, government, mass organizations and workplaces have been directed to immediately adopt measures to solve problems that do not have to wait for a higher decision, which has been taking place.
The principal and decisive aim of this great effort has been to find, with the conscious and active participation of the overwhelming majority of Cubans, the best solutions within the reach of the country’s economic possibilities, given that, as I said recently, nobody here is a magician or can pull resources out of a hat.
Moreover, time is needed to study, organize and plan how to attain the proposed objectives with the greatest quality and efficiency. The former is not solely dependent on the will or interest of those involved in solving the problem; to a large extent it also depends on the availability of resources and the authority and qualities of the cadres involved and their constancy.
Experience demonstrates the importance of analyzing problems in an integral way, to conciliate decisions and act with rationality.
Of course, not all of the proposals and suggestions can be applied as a whole. A consensus will have to be forged decide the most rational and appropriate ones, as in more than a few cases, they are contradictory, and certain opinions reflect a lack of information, particularly in the economic sphere.
This process has ratified something fundamental: those occupying a leadership post must know how to listen and how to create an opportune environment for the rest to express themselves with absolute freedom. This is something that must be definitively incorporated into the style of work of every leader, in conjunction with the opportune instruction, criticism or disciplinary measure.
We would all like to move faster, but that is not always possible.
Our people receive information in many ways and work is ongoing to improve those ways and eliminate the harmful tendency to triumphalism and complacency, so as to guarantee that every compañero/a with a specific political or administrative responsibility systematically informs on their brief with realism, in a clear, critical and self-critical manner.
That is the objective of the recent TV/Radio “Roundtables” on national issues, with the presence of the heads of the agencies most centrally involved. These will continue to take place as long as there is something important on which to inform. The same thing should be done in the provinces and municipalities, not just by the media but also directly, in the barrios and in people’s workplaces, where many problems can be solved or explained.
WHEN PROPERLY EXERCISED, CRITICISM IS ESSENTIAL IN TERMS OF ADVANCING
The national press has also contributed to an analysis of the issues that are vital to the population and the country’s socioeconomic development. When it is properly exercised, criticism is essential in terms of advancing.
Many compañeras and compañeros are witness to the rigor with which the 1.3 million proposals put together from the 3,255,344 speeches made are being studied. They constitute a highly useful source of information both for the present and the future.
We are in agreement with those who have warned on an excess of prohibitions and legal measures, which do more harm than good. We could say that the majority of them were correct and just in their time, but more than a few of them have been superceded by life, and behind every incorrect prohibition lie a large number of illegalities.
In relation to one of the issues most raised in the meetings: food production and its high price; the country is working with the urgency that that vital matter requires, given its direct and daily impact on the life of the population, above all on those people with lower incomes.
There have been advances in the studies and we will continue to act, with all the speed that circumstances permit, so that land and resources are in the hands of those who are capable of producing with efficiency, so that they feel supported, socially recognized and receive the material retribution that they deserve.
I have not attempted to fully cover any one of the issued raised; we shall have to return to them time and time again. As we hoped, this has been a critical process, in which the majority of our compatriots clearly stated their support for our social system, the Commander in Chief and the Party.
Millions of Cubans expressed considerations and suggestions directed at improving our socialism. As I said a few days ago in Santiago de Cuba, it has been a sound demonstration of the people’s high level of awareness and political culture.
WHAT PARTICULARLY INTERESTS US IS THAT THE POSITIVE PERFORMANCE OF MACROECONOMIC INDICATORS IS REFLECTED AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE IN THE HOUSEHOLD ECONOMY
Progress in the economy is undeniable, expressed in the growth of the Gross Domestic Product in recent years, but what particularly interests us is that the positive performance of macroeconomic indicators is reflected as much as possible in the household economy, where everyday shortages are present.
Decisions directed at the gradual solution of different problems in education, health, transport, housing and recreation, just to name a few pressing issues, are being discussed, part of which may be resolved or at least improved in reasonable amounts of time, above all those stemming from subjective causes. The most important of these issues was addressed in the reports given to the deputies for this session of the Assembly, and which were previously thoroughly debated in the commissions.
The solution to many difficulties requires increasing the effectiveness of the investment process. Priorities must be established, labor and resources must be better organized and modern technology must be introduced. This effort should contribute to increasing productivity. And something essential: any investments begun must be concluded in the set time frame, otherwise resources are mobilized without any benefits being seen.
Various other complex matters, such as the existence of two currencies and deformations in the systems of wages and prices, require thorough study, which will be undertaken with the moderation, rigor and responsibility they deserve.
We should determine, with the active participation of everyone, what – under our conditions – are the most effective channels for ensuring sustained growth in national production and the country’s export capacity, reducing imports and investing our resources in well-defined priorities, for systematically seeking productive efficiency and improving the enterprise system linked to performance. Moreover, we are obliged to defend the country’s credibility with respect to its creditors, and to guarantee the necessary resources for investments that ensure a perspective of development.
As was said here, conservation is one of the greatest sources of resources for achieving what I have mentioned, but some citizens, groups of workers and institutions still have an insufficient awareness of its importance.
The criticism of the population is a just one regarding the irrational use of resources in certain state entities due to disorganization, a lack of oversight and exigency, while at the same time social and economic needs remain pending.
However, as I explained in Camagüey, not all problems and shortages are due to internal deficiencies. There is also the influence of an international economic situation that we cannot avoid, characterized by accelerated growth in the prices of the fuel and food that we buy, just to mention two basic lines, although in reality, almost everything we import has gone up in price and will keep going up.
In addition to that, as we know, there are the losses resulting from the economic blockade of Cuba and the need to deal with the consequences of natural disasters produced by climate change, which are growing in magnitude and frequency. Suffice it to point to just one of the climatological events in the eastern part of the country, where were forced to spend an unforeseen $499 million.
NOBODY DOUBTS THE FIRM CONVICTION DEMONSTRATED BY OUR PEOPLE IN THE FACT THAT ONLY SOCIALISM CAN OVERCOME THE DIFFICULTIES
As we can see, the challenges we have before us are enormous, but nobody doubts the firm conviction demonstrated by our people in the fact that only socialism can overcome the difficulties and preserve the conquests of almost a half century of Revolution.
A Revolution that belongs to all of us, given that it was born and has grown thanks to the efforts and sacrifice of many generations of patriots. Making it stronger every day until it is invulnerable in every aspect depends on the hands and consciousness of all of us, the Cubans of today and of tomorrow.
It would be suicide not to behave that way in response to a U.S. administration that, as compañero Alarcón has just explained, has intensified its aggressiveness against Cuba in order to satisfy the interests of the most extremist groups in that country.
Evidence of that is the intensification of the economic war as part of the reinforcement of the Bush Plan, which includes measures for putting on pressure and desperate and unsuccessful attempts at destabilizing the country, in order to mount new pretexts for justifying its hostile policy, against which there is increasing international opposition, including among ever-growing layers of U.S. society itself.
Our people take every threat very seriously. That can be seen by Operation Caguairán, which has made it possible to train approximately 430,000 reserve combatants and militia members, as well as other essential tasks like the modernization of our armament, the preparation of the theater of military operations, important maneuvers and the recently-concluded Moncada 2007 exercise, all of which substantially strengthen the country’s defense capacity and lay the foundations that will contribute to the successful execution, at the end of next year, of the strategic exercise Bastion 2008.
Given the intensification of subversive maneuvers and efforts to isolate us internationally, internal stability has been preserved, the country has continued to consolidate its socioeconomic development, and the international prestige of the Revolution has been strengthened.
During the year, as has been mentioned here, significant progress was made in the implementation of strategic programs, which has had a positive repercussion on the economy and on improving our people’s living conditions, such as the “energy revolution,” to cite just one example.
On the political level, the immense majority of Cubans resoundingly demonstrated their determination to preserve and defend the Revolution during the elections for People’s Power delegates this past October, and we are sure that it will be that way this January 20, when we elect our delegates to the Provincial Assemblies and the deputies that will comprise our National Assembly.
In the presidency of the Non-Aligned Movement, Cuba maintained its vitality and influence in important multilateral processes.
Once again, the U.S. government, despite enormous efforts, was unable to impose its attempts to condemn our country in the field of human rights, while at the same time it received a crushing defeat in the United Nations General Assembly record vote against the blockade.
The recent visit by President Chávez, the PETROCARIBE Summit and the progress made by the ALBA (Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas) have been important steps in consolidating regional integration mechanisms.
Our work in the coming year should be characterized by its systematic character; effective organization, planning and control; working for priorities and using resources rationally; increasing labor productivity and efficiency; and strengthening integration, cooperation and unity in the leadership activities of state agencies, the government, the Union of Young Communists and mass organizations on every level, in order to face together, under the leadership of the Party, the main problems affecting our people.
In the name of our Commander in Chief, of the Central Committee of the Party and of the members of this Assembly, we transmit to our compatriots well-deserved congratulations, despite all the difficulties and aggressions, for everything we have done to successfully arrive at “Year 50 of the Revolution,” which doubtlessly will also be one of modest victories in every aspect.
The deputies that make up this Sixth Legislature have known how to comply with the mandate of our people and deserve our recognition. Some of you have been newly nominated, others will no longer serve in this capacity and will continue to carry out your usual work, because as it is known, nobody earns one cent for being a member of this Assembly. I can assure all of you that one thing that won’t be lacking is plenty of work.
Whatever the responsibility entrusted to us, we will rise to the level of the trust that our heroic people have placed in us, and to the honor of being soldiers of a Revolution led by a Commander in Chief who, with his example and wisdom, has always led us to victory.
Being worthy of a people who for decades has faced, with courage and stoicism, every danger and difficulty; a people whose youth are demonstrating that they are acting in accordance with their glorious history, with one true example being that of our five heroes imprisoned by the empire, who next year will complete 10 years of unjust punishment in U.S. prisons.
I wish all Cuban men and women a happy 2008. Celebrate, rest, recover your strength, you deserve it.
And let’s all work hard!
Thank you very much.