Photo: Raul Castro
President Raul Castro defended the “gradual” nature of his government’s reforms, emphasizing the need to “ensure order” and avoid mistakes that would distort the aims of the plan to update Cuba’s socialist economy.
“Gradualness is not a whim and ... I do not want to postpone the changes we must implement. On the contrary. It’s about a need to ensure order and avoid gaps that would lead us directly to mistakes that would distort the proposed objectives,” Castro said in an address to lawmakers.
Cuba’s National Assembly held its first ordinary plenary session of the year on Saturday to review the country’s economic situation and the ongoing economic reforms.
In the first half of 2014, there was a “deceleration in the rate of growth” and the gross domestic product (GDP) increased by only 0.6 percent, a “modest” rise, Castro said.
The government attributed the deceleration to unfulfilled elements of the plan to earn foreign income, adverse weather conditions and internal insufficiencies, along with the “complex international situation” and the “resurgence of the blockade” imposed by the United States on the island, Castro said.
Cuba also has lowered its growth forecast for 2014 by 2.2 percent to 1.4 percent but reaching that target “will require more and better work in the second half of the year” along with greater efficiency, the president said.
“The achieved result does not satisfy us, but neither does it discourage us in the slightest. In the face of those complex circumstances, (we feel) the spirit to struggle with firmness and optimism to reverse the situation and recover rates of advancement that ensure socialist development on a sustainable basis,” Castro said.
Castro, as is customary, devoted part of his speech before the Assembly to criticizing the United States and warning that its policies vis-a-vis the island “are condemned to failure.”
“Despite the growing international rejection, in particular in Latin America and the Caribbean and even inside the U.S., of the blockade against Cuba, far from rectifying this policy, it continues to be fully in place,” Castro said.