VP Calls for Greater Efficiency
By Will Weissert, Associated Press Writer
HAVANA, October 1 (AP) -- Cuba needs to
produce higher-quality goods more efficiently,
cut graft and reduce reliance on gasoline,
a major economic leader said in remarks
Vice President Carlos Lage delivered a
frank assessment of his country's economic
future during a closed-door speech Saturday
that was later reported in state media,
saying the communist government has become
accustomed to producing shoddy merchandise
and undertaking unsustainable economic initiatives.
"We live in the conditions of a country
facing economic war," Lage told the
leadership of Cuba's central workers union,
though he added that Cuba is "a country
that is strong and has the conditions and
possibilities to move forward."
Lage heads Cuba's Cabinet and exercises
wide control over administration and economic
policy in the provisional government running
Cuba since Fidel Castro stepped aside due
to illness in July 2006.
Lage said Cuba needs to slash the amount
of oil it uses and must improve production
of goods that meet basic needs for its population
instead of poor-quality consumer goods.
"The need to produce quality and,
moreover, to do it saving energy, has to
be incorporated in the economic culture
of every worker," he said.
Lage said Cuba needs labor leaders and
administrators who can solve problems --
including rampant employee theft of state
materials -- instead of just parroting empty
"We should not do anything we know
we aren't capable of sustaining," Lage
said, possibly a veiled allusion to the
sort of periodic economic crusades that
Castro summoned during his 47 years in power.
Cuba says it is under siege by Washington's
45-year-old embargo, but its economy has
been relatively strong of late, thanks to
oil sold at favorable prices by Venezuelan
President Hugo Chavez, as well as credits
The 81-year-old Castro has not been seen
in public since announcing he had undergone
emergency intestinal surgery and was ceding
power to his younger brother, Raul.
Raul Castro has suggested the island could
seek more foreign investment and called
for unspecified "structural changes"
in the farming sector, sparking widespread
debate within the Communist Party and other
sectors about Cuba's economic future.
The younger Castro, 76, said last week
that Cubans shouldn't be afraid to speak
their minds about economic reform, saying
they should do so "with bravery, with
sincerity, without many illusions that we
are magicians and are going to resolve problems."
Raul Castro is said to be impressed by
China's market-oriented reforms.
Lage, who turns 56 next month, has been
mentioned as a future president by some
Both he and Raul Castro have played key
roles in reforming Cuba's economy, encouraging
foreign investment and tourism while allowing
some private business to stave off collapse
after Soviet Bloc disbanded and billions
of dollars in subsidies to the island suddenly