Cuba’s first cabinet meet under new president tackles tricky economy

Fixing the Soviet-style centralized economy is the most pressing challenge new President Miguel Diaz-Canel faces. (Reuters)
Updated 27 April 2018

Cuba’s first cabinet meet under new president tackles tricky economy

HAVANA: Communist-run Cuba’s first cabinet meeting under new President Miguel Diaz-Canel focused on corruption and a cash crunch hurting the economy, state-run media reported on Thursday.
Diaz-Canel took office from his mentor Raul Castro last week, although the latter remains head of the ruling Communist Party, the island nation’s guiding political force.
Fixing the Soviet-style centralized economy is the most pressing challenge Diaz-Canel faces in view of declining oil shipments from socialist ally Venezuela and renewed tensions with old foe the United States that is hurting tourism.
Deputy Economy Minister Alejandro Gil Fernandez delivered a report on the economy’s performance in the first quarter of 2018 at the monthly cabinet meeting on Wednesday, state-run media reported.
There were still “tensions over the availability of hard currency” because of weak exports, as well as difficulties in fuel supply, media cited him as saying.
Lower imports due to the liquidity crisis have been affecting Cuban factories’ ability to manufacture; production of sanitary towels for example was suspended in recent months, causing indignation among some Cubans.
Supplies had finally arrived however, so the government hoped the situation would be “normalized” by May, state-run media reported.
In the face of low supplies and a lack of building workers among other difficulties, the government estimated Cuba achieved 90 percent of its investment goal in the first quarter.
Sugar production had been impacted by an intense drought followed by sustained rain, as well as Hurricane Irma, it said.
The cabinet meeting also addressed the “economic affectations caused by irregularities in foreign commerce operations and plans to combat illegalities in land use and urban planning,” state-run media reported.
This was the first time in a while that state-run media had given a detailed report on a cabinet meeting.
The meeting reunited the council of ministers of the legislative period that ended last week. Diaz-Canel has postponed announcing his own council of ministers until the next parliamentary session in July.


Japan, US say 3-way ties with S. Korea are key to security

Updated 24 min 29 sec ago

Japan, US say 3-way ties with S. Korea are key to security

  • Relations between Japan and South Korea in recent months have been their lowest in decades
  • Milley also met with PM Shinzo Abe and Defense Minister Taro Kono

TOKYO: The chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, agreed with Japanese officials Tuesday that three-way cooperation with South Korea is key to regional security and that an intelligence sharing pact between Tokyo and Seoul should not be scrapped.
Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said he told Milley that discord among the three countries would only destabilize the region and benefit North Korea, China and Russia.
“We shared a view that Japan-US-South Korea cooperation is more important now than ever, as we discussed the latest situation related to North Korea, including the North’s latest launch of ballistic missiles,” Motegi said.
He and Milley also agreed on the importance of the Japan-South Korea intelligence sharing pact. Motegi added that Milley promised to convey that message to South Korea during his upcoming visit there.
South Korea has announced plans to scrap the General Security of Military Information Agreement, or GSOMIA, amid disputes with Japan over trade and wartime history.
The deal, which is set to expire later this month, symbolizes the Asian neighbors’ security cooperation with Washington in the face of North Korea’s nuclear and missile threat and China’s growing influence. US President Donald Trump’s administration has been exerting last-minute pressure on Japan and South Korea to keep the deal.
Milley also met with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Defense Minister Taro Kono, according to the Foreign Ministry and news reports.
Relations between Japan and South Korea in recent months have been their lowest in decades.
Japan has denounced South Korean court rulings that ordered Japanese companies to compensate elderly South Koreans for forced labor during World War II, insisting that all compensation issues were settled by a 1965 treaty normalizing relations between the two countries.
South Korea accuses Tokyo of ignoring its people’s suffering under Japan’s brutal colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945, and reacted angrily to Japan’s tightening of controls on key technology exports to South Korea and the downgrading of its trade status.