HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuba’s Communist Party admitted a slowdown and errors in its implementation of Raul Castro’s market-style reforms, just weeks before he steps down from the presidency, but vowed to continue updating the Soviet-style command economy.
The party central committee held a plenary session to discuss the state of reforms undertaken during Castro’s 10-year presidential mandate to open up the ailing economy and give the private sector and foreign investment greater roles.
Castro, who steps down as president on April 19, presided over the plenary which took place this week. The 86-year old will remain head of the party, the country’s guiding political force, until 2021.
“Despite the errors and insufficiencies recognized in this plenary, the situation is more favorable than a few years ago,” Castro, 86, was quoted as saying by party newspaper Granma.
Reforms were implemented swiftly in the first three years since being agreed in 2011, the head of the party’s reform commission Marino Murillo was cited as saying.
The number of self-employed workers in the Caribbean island nation of 11.2 million residents has more than tripled to around 580,000 workers.
But implementation has slowed in the last two years due to the complexity of the process, mistakes in oversight, a lack of financial backing and low engagement of the bureaucracy, Murillo said. The party was also deliberately implementing reforms slowly to ensure they would not marginalize anyone.
The government last year froze the issuance of licenses for an important set of private sector activities as it sought to root out malpractices such as purchases on the black market and to improve regulation.
The 142-member central committee discussed the lack of a fiscal culture and accountancy tools to make a serious economic analysis in Cuba as well as difficulties communicating the complex process.
Many Cubans, whose expectations were raised by Castro’s reforms, have felt frustrated by the slowdown that they believe means Havana is not truly committed to updating the economy.
The government said late last year, for example, it would limit licenses to one per person going forwards - a move that could limit Cubans’ entrepreneurial ambitions.
Yet it did not address key private sector concerns like the lack of a wholesale market or ability to import or export.
Havana has also backtracked on reforms in the key agricultural sector over the last few years, once more assigning resources, setting prices and controlling most distribution.
Additional reporting by Nelson Acosta