Just because last year’s speech offered a road map of sorts to some of Raul Castro’s policy actions, it was not guaranteed that this year’s 26th of July speech, delivered in Santiago, would do the same. (English text here.)
And it certainly didn’t.
Major passages of this speech were local – about investments in the water system in
Unlike last year, there was no talk about “excessive prohibitions” in the laws and regulations that affect Cubans’ daily lives, no talk about “structural changes” in agriculture or elsewhere.
Raul Castro did outline some positive economic results (tourism up, efficiencies realized in transportation), but he gave no hint of policies that would help to address big challenges that he has described starkly – aging population, declining workforce growth, income inequality, dual currency – much less an indication that, as in agriculture, he is looking at ways to change policies to liberate productive energies that could generate growth and jobs.
Instead, there was a warning of tough times ahead:
“I repeat that the revolution has done and will continue to do anything within its power to continue to advance and to reduce to the minimum the unavoidable consequences of the present international crisis for our people. Yet, we should timely explain to our people the difficulties so that we can be better prepared to face them. We must get used to receiving not only good news.”
All in all, when it comes to economic policy, it’s hard to improve on the way Alejandro Armengol put it, in a nutshell, in his blog: that the speech gave no hope “that the process of change would accelerate in the coming months, or would even continue.” We’ll see.