Carlos Lage Davila's Speech to Municipal People's Power Assembly Presidents
A CubaNews translation. Edited by Walter Lippmann
Carlos Lage Dávila at the meeting of municipal people's power presidents Photo: Roberto Suárez
It would be neither possible nor necessary to talk about all the topics we have discussed here in the last three days, so I have selected some of them:
As a result of the economic effects of the sharp rise in the price of fuel, food and almost everything we import and our priority efforts to plan on the basis of our available resources, there have been cuts in some major investment programs, and further reductions are bound to follow. But none will be abandoned, as this is only an adjournment while we streamline their scopes.
This urgent economic situation has led to investment plans more in keeping with our current building capacity, which will make it possible to cut costs, meet deadlines and, contradictory though it may sound, step up our progress.
Nonetheless, our investment plan for 2008 is 29% higher than last year’s and 2.4 times that of the year 2000.
As we speak, and given the urgent need to increase our construction capacity, the Ministry of Construction and a Political Bureau Commission are making a comprehensive revision of the construction program, and all the necessary steps will be taken in due course.
But one thing cannot wait that is essential for any program to succeed: discipline in carrying out the works.
Our Boards of Directors must give support to and demand the following:
• Full control of material resources in building sites. Control by the managers and the workers alike. Rather than asking whether the work will be finished on schedule, they must ask –and check– whether anything has been stolen. And I am not talking about deficits or diversion of resources, but using the right term. A boss’s prime task is to make sure that nothing is stolen from the premises.
• Every work must be part of the economic plan; therefore, they must be able to count from the outset on all the resources they need.
• Construction work must be preceded by detailed preparations, including sufficiently advanced projects.
• The workers are part of the planning, so they must be selected in advance and never reassigned to other works.
• Before work starts, the investor and the constructor must agree on a strict and precise timetable and demand that it be fulfilled without excuse.
• Once started, work must proceed nonstop until the end. Organizing two or even three shifts a day may be justified in some cases.
• The ultimate purpose must be to have highly productive eight-hour working days. Where construction is concerned, overtime is almost always the consequence of low productivity during the regular working hours.
• Steps must be taken to provide the proper work clothes and shoes, meals and living conditions, which are no less necessary than the construction materials needed to do the job.
We feel anger, and rightly so, when we are told that a certain amount of money was lost owing to, say, a wrongly signed contract. However, we put up with delays as if they were the most natural thing in the world, even if in those cases we end up losing a lot more money in revenues we never get to receive. Time is also an economic resource that we can measure in convertible pesos.
Concerning the housing program, this is what we learned in the last two years:
• We need to produce more prefabricated construction materials, a fact imposed by the lack of sufficient skilled labor and transportation means. Molds, double shifts and measures to eliminate bottlenecks in the production line are some alternatives worth considering in every factory while we wait for centralized decisions about new investments.
• The steady efforts of People’s Power-run construction brigades engaged in housing and repair work in every municipality is extremely important, and they are and will be supported with working instruments and means by the Ministry of Construction (MICONS) and the Housing Institute. Besides, the Ministry’s provincial delegations must reinforce the construction brigades devoted exclusively to housing, as these workers should not be used to resolve backlogs in other sites or undertake new works outside the plans.
• It is at municipal level where the housing plans for 2009 should be designed. By allocating resources in the same way we used in 2008, the municipal office will propose what housing developments should be started, continued or terminated, so that we give priority to the most serious and pressing problems in every place.
• We must never abandon the principle of widespread popular participation. Families, communities and workplaces must join the construction brigades after working hours and through voluntary work mobilizations. There must be a great spirit of solidarity, and measures to prevent anyone involved in the housing plan from having to seek private help to move the materials or take care of any other task.
• A house can only be deemed finished when delivered to its dweller. Meeting the requirements to fulfill the job cannot allow for fraud. Our prime demand is that the reports be truthful, and then ask about the progress of the plans, and that goes too for any conservation and rehabilitation work. This year we aim to undertake 110,000 conservation and 140,000 rehabilitation actions, more than ever before, in line with the priorities identified by deputies and delegates from every constituency, but we must make sure the reported figures really square with the work performed and its magnitude.
The old problem of insufficient maintenance at almost all levels of production and service is no doubt related to the shortage of resources and labor, but it’s also a matter of culture, priority –or lack of it– and poor planning.
Important plans are under way to reconstruct and retrofit health institutions, schools, service centers and many other factories and establishments. It would be pointless to keep repairing polyclinics or hospitals if we’re not capable of maintaining those already repaired.
Maintenance should be our top priority when allocating resources anywhere. What we have we must use first to maintain and then to grow.
Seeing destroyed and out of order what was once in shipshape condition and operating properly is unfortunately a common occurrence, the consequence of not devoting to maintenance the amount of time and degree of demand that we do new investments.
The Boards of Directors at provincial and municipal level, as well as the State Central Administration bodies, must understand that unity means progress. We can and must work harder to answer to and meet people’s needs. It is the duty of the above bodies and the People’s Power to give the delegates all the necessary information and support to provide a solution or an answer to every problem. All municipalities should study each and every statement made in the current account-rendering process, the first to be held in this term of office. If a matter cannot be solved or there is not enough information to give about it, it must be submitted to the provincial authorities, and from there to the Council of Ministers, where we will meet to evaluate the outcome of this process.
We will be better prepared to answer people’s questions insofar as we know each one of their statements and strengthen our economic plans.
A plan to produce construction materials and asphalt, build dwellings, provide street lighting and waterworks, etc., will make it possible at municipal and provincial level to have a say in decisions about annual priorities, since as we know, not all things can be solved right away, and many need a longer time.
Today’s emphasis in the importance of planning and discipline in performance, as instructed by comrade Raúl, also comprises a greater involvement of the Boards of Directors at municipal and provincial level in designing plans.
From the Battle of Ideas, triggered and guided by Fidel, countless programs of great social consequence were drawn and boosted which reaffirm our Revolution’s sense of justice and solidarity.
People with disabilities, children who are underweight and undersized for their age or whose normal growth is affected by any other biological or social factor, senior citizens who live alone, patients with low-prevalence illnesses who need special care, youths who neither study nor work or are otherwise prone to become marginals or criminals, convicts and ex-convicts: they are not just a cold set of statistics, but people who have a name and are taken care of by social workers, political organizations and other community factors and forces.
Not one of them can go unattended. That is a unique privilege of our Socialist Society, made possible by 40,000 young social workers. Conditions have been created as well to see to their material needs and gradually satisfy their needs, starting with the most critical solutions.
Controlling our resources and saving everything, and especially fuel and food, has become an essential, decisive need that cannot be postponed.
Strict consumption rules, properly scheduled inventories, regulations against the creation of reserves or changes in the destination of the resources we allocate to one site are some of the criteria we must apply with full rigor. To that effect, we will receive from you specific proposals to reduce assignments, and by their number and extent we will measure the rate of fulfillment. In particular, we must work faster to centralize transportation.
By saving we ensure a source of wealth only possible through discipline, ability and efficiency.
Absorbed as we are in the intensity of our work, I invite you to find some time to read, study and meditate about the problems of the world, the country, the province and the municipality. Think about how the world economy has been turned into a casino by the blind laws of the market; the impact of a superpower’s hegemonic and selfish purposes; regional conflicts the world over; production and pricing trends; climate change; the advance of computer science, biotechnology and nanotechnology; the way some countries lag behind while others move forward…
One of your crucial obligations is to keep up with, think about and appraise a number of issues, including the features of socioeconomic development and the political situation in the provinces and municipalities that you manage, their birth and death rates, people’s main pathologies, students’ degree of devotion to their duties, labor discipline and productivity, youth employment rate, figures about migration, how much your municipality contributes to and spends from its budget, resource management, ability to meet people’s most pressing needs, and level of revolutionary morals, to name a few.
Your twofold duty as Constituency Delegates and Presidents of the People’s Power’s Councils are difficult and demanding, albeit encouraging and pivotal. Example above all else: if your conduct and that of your subordinate leaders is impeccable in and out of your office, half the battle will be already won. Only by practicing what we preach will we able to exert influence on people, curb corruption and work effectively.
Truth is to be sought by coming into contact with our people, for they are the ones who know what is really going on and can provide solutions to problems.
We must learn to listen, be ready at all times to hear someone’s opinion, and stop in our tracks whenever we hear something different to what we thought.
Never lie about anything, significant or otherwise, under any circumstances. Not even phrases like «Tell them I’m not in», or «I’ll meet with you later» if you don’t actually intend to, or others along those lines can be justified, because that is how a leader’s will to face up to the problems begins to fade and the airtight plating of their honesty begins to crumble.
Act quickly whenever possible: well and quickly outmatch well.
Our multiple tasks and the urgency of some of them should not make us look away from collective management: when taken by all together, a decision sets everybody’s intelligence and skills in motion until its completion.
Sleeping less than 6 hours is held to be a cause for obesity, and that is a risk to be avoided. Yet, as I reread [Cuban National Hero José] Martí’s diary a few days ago I found these words: «sleeping is guilty for as long as something remains to be done».
Our people respect those who work, and prove to be understanding when they notice that the person who gives them an explanation grasp the essence of their problem and make it their own.
I will not go over our difficulties here and now. You know them and live with them; our media is increasingly covering them with great skill, while foreign media magnifies and multiplies them.
Regardless, the Revolution can be said to have made undeniable progress in these years of the new century when compared to the hardest years of the Special Period: power supply is more stable, we have more medicines and food, many schools and hospitals have been repaired, greater efforts have been made in the fields of construction and transportation, there have been improvements in water supply for a growing number of people, and so on, all in the midst of and despite a very difficult and complex international situation.
Last year our country spent 1,470 billion dollars to import 3,423,000 tons of foodstuffs. Importing the same amount at the current prices would mean an expenditure of 2,554 billion dollars, or a billion more than the previous year.
Last year we consumed 158,000 barrels of oil per day, for which we paid 8.7 million dollars. The same amount costs 32% more this year, that is, 11.6 million dollars per day.
These are facts to bear in mind and explain, as they unavoidably affect our life and compel us to make economic adjustments. In capitalist countries this is a spontaneous phenomenon that spares no one, while in a socialist society the effects can be mitigated and controlled to protect some social groups, although they cannot be avoided. These realities are still unbeknown to many people, and others are aware of them but fail to link them to our problems. It is fair to expect our living conditions to improve, but in the meantime we must keep our feet on the ground. Only by working more, doing better, saving more and planning better will we carry out successfully.
Comrade Raúl recently called upon us to work hard. To close this meeting, where we have seen so much discussion about the problems we are yet to solve, the mistakes we are making, the goals we want to reach and the grave consequences of the increasing prices of the resources we import, I can think of no better way to finish than by saying these words: let’s get down to it!
Homeland or Death,
We shall overcome!
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