HAVANA TIMES — The Cuban government said on Saturday it is satisfied by the “favorable performance” of the island’s economy in the first half of the year, despite a “slowdown” overall and increased unemployment.
An optimistic minister of the economy, Adel Yzquierdo, painted a “favorable” picture of developments in the island’s centrally planned economy, but pointed to a general decline and reduced growth estimates for this year, in an address to the Cuban parliament.
Yzquierdo presented the legislature with economic performance figures for the first half of 2013. President Raul Castro was also present.
According to the figures, employment in the emerging private sector in Cuba continued to grow in the first half of 2013 while the state sector fell.
Unemployment is expected to grow by 4.2 percent in the state sector in the first half of the year, compared with a growth figure of 8.8 percent in the private sector, according to Yzquierdo’s report.
The forecasts, however, point to a general increase in unemployment because the expected growth in the self employed sector was not reached “, noted Prensa Latina.
The island currently has 400,000 people working in the private sector, the so-called “self-employed”. Over recent years, the government of Raul Castro is implementing a program of economic reforms with market elements that have allowed for an opening of some less specialized trades to private work.
The medium-term goal is the progressive reduction of half a million jobs in the bloated state sector, as announced by the government in 2010.
Many of the “self-employed” registered so far, however, are retired or keep their jobs in the state sector while trying to obtain a little other income.
The economy showed an overall a “favorable performance”, said Yzquierdo. Almost all sectors recorded growth, “including trade, transport, communications and manufacturing,” he noted.
Yzquierdo said the Cuban trade balance was positive at the end of the first quarter and pointed to a similar trend for year-end. At the same time, he spoke of a “slowdown” in the global economic situation.
Cuba recently reduced its forecasts for annual growth in 2013 from the 3.6 percent initially estimated to somewhere between 2.5 and 3.0 percent. He emphasized that the evolution of gross domestic product (GDP) has been influenced by the crisis in the international arena.
In the first semester, the island’s economy grew 2.3 percent, according Yzquierdo, despite “external stress”, the “internal weaknesses” and the effects of Hurricane “Sandy”, which swept across the east of Cuba in October 2012.
“Sandy” affected 11 provinces and caused losses of almost 7 billion dollars, according to the minister.
The inaugural session of the eighth legislature of the National Assembly of People’s Power closes on, Sunday. Raul Castro is expected to pronounce in a speech to the parliament.
In a Communist Party Central Committee meeting last week, Castro came down hard on what he called “indiscipline and illegalities” in the State apparatus. He will most likely refer to the fight against corruption, one of the banner efforts of his administration.