Cuba cutting spending to deal with crisis

HAVANA, Cuba, December 30, 2008 – As Cuba prepares to face the challenges arising from the global economic crisis, President Raul Castro has announced cuts in unnecessary government expenditure as one of the ways the country will deal with the slowdown.

He said that while Cuba recorded growth this year, there is uncertainty about how the world economy will perform next year and government spending will therefore have to be adjusted.

“We must be prepared to face this serious challenge that is affecting us in a noticeable way,” President Castro said as he addressed the closing session of Parliament over the weekend.

Among the measures which he said were aimed at lowering unnecessary costs, was the halving of money spent on overseas trips by representatives of state agencies and enterprises.

Mr Castro added that a number of “inappropriately free-of-charge opportunities and excessive subsidies” would be considered for elimination, including highly subsidised holiday programmes for executives, outstanding workers and other sectors of the population. He said such programmes now cost the government nearly US$60 million.

The Cuban leader insisted that free opportunities must be limited to guaranteeing all citizens equal access to education, health care, social security and assistance, culture and sports.