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.


Afghan official Abdullah in Pakistan for talks on peace bid

Updated 3 min 33 sec ago

Afghan official Abdullah in Pakistan for talks on peace bid

  • The United States has acknowledged Pakistan’s help in fostering Afghan peace efforts
  • Relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan have long been rocky

ISLAMABAD: Senior Afghan peace official Abdullah Abdullah arrived in Pakistan on Monday for meetings in a country seen as vital to the success of Afghan talks aimed at ending decades of war.
During his three-day visit to Islamabad, Abdullah, a former foreign minister and chairman of Afghanistan’s High Council for National Reconciliation, will meet Prime Minister Imran Khan as well as Pakistan’s foreign minister.
Relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan have long been rocky. Afghanistan and its international allies have for years accused Pakistan of backing Taliban insurgents as a way to limit the influence of old rival India in Afghanistan.
Pakistan denies that and in turn accuses Afghanistan of letting anti-Pakistan militants plot attacks from Afghan soil, which Afghanistan denies.
“Pakistan fully supports all efforts for peace,” its foreign ministry spokesman said in a statement.
“The visit of Dr. Abdullah Abdullah will contribute to further strengthening amity, brotherhood and close cooperation.”
The United States has acknowledged Pakistan’s help in fostering Afghan peace efforts including in encouraging the Taliban to negotiate.
The US special representative for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, said last week the United States and its allies were looking at an agreement between Afghanistan and Pakistan so that neither side’s territory would be used to attack the other.
Khalilzad was the architect of a February pact between the United States and the Taliban allowing US troops to withdraw from Afghanistan in exchange for Taliban guarantees on international terrorism.
But Prime Minister Khan, in an opinion piece in the Washington Post on Saturday, expressed concern that Afghanistan could again be used as a haven for international militant groups and warned that a “hasty international withdrawal from Afghanistan would be unwise.”
There have also been concerns that the Afghan peace process could increase militancy in Pakistan as fighters now in Afghanistan seek refuge on the Pakistani side of the border.
Afghan and Taliban negotiators have been meeting in Doha since Sept. 12 hoping to agree on a cease-fire and a power-sharing deal.
But they have been bogged down on principles and procedures for talks even before discussing their agenda. (Reporting by Charlotte Greenfield; additional reporting by Rupam Jain and Abdul Qadir Sediqi Editing by Robert Birsel)