Cuba claims it made economic strides in 2010

* Minister says Cuba achieved 2010 econonomic growth goal

* Complains its economy still plagued by “indiscipline”

By Jeff Franks

HAVANA, Dec 15 (BestGrowthStock) – Cash-strapped Cuba achieved some
of its economic goals in 2010, but will have to improve its
performance if it wants to emerge from its chronic economic
funk, a top government official said on Wednesday.

Economic and Planning Minister Marino Murillo complained
about a lack of discipline and other problems in the
state-dominated economy in a speech to the Cuban parliament
aired in part on national television.

Murillo said Cuba had achieved the level of economic growth
planned for 2010, but he gave no figures in the portion of his
presentation aired for television.

A year ago in his annual speech to the assembly, Murillo
forecast Cuba’s economy would grow at 1.9 percent, up from 1.4
percent in 2009.

Production of key agricultural products fell short in 2010,
Murillo said, and transportation problems had plagued the
sector. The failures meant the government had to spend heavily
on importation of food staples including rice and beans.

Murillo projected $1.6 billion would be spent on food
imports in 2011, which would contribute to an expected budget
deficit of 3.8 percent for the year.

Poor fiscal discipline and low productivity continued to
hurt the Cuban economy, which is trying to recover from a
severe cash crunch that forced it to freeze some bank accounts
and stop paying bills starting in 2008, he said.

Murillo complained that poor performance had caused Cuba to
miss out on opportunities to cash in on higher-than-expected
prices for key exports nickel and sugar.

“We have to have much discipline because if not, we cannot
put this economy in order. These are moments of much
indiscipline,” he said.

Among the positives, Murillo said productivity had risen
4.2 percent in 2010 and salaries were up 4.4 percent.

“It’s a good sign because we’ve gone several years without
resolving that problem,” he said.

Cuba’s parliament, which convenes twice a year, was meeting
in the midst of a national debate on economic reforms proposed
by President Raul Castro and expected to be approved at a
Communist Party congress in March.

The reforms would liberalize Cuba’s Soviet-style economy by
expanding the private sector and reducing the state’s role, but
with the aim of preserving the socialist system put in place
after a 1959 revolution.

They call for trimming more than a million jobs from the
government payroll and allowing more self-employment.
(Additional reporting by Rosa Tania Valdes and Esteban Israel;
Editing by Todd Eastham)

Cuba claims it made economic strides in 2010