HAVANA.- The Council of Ministers, meeting earlier this week in the Palace of the Revolution and headed by its President, Miguel Diaz-Canel, analyzed the performance of the national economy in the first half of the year, the liquidation of the 2017 State Budget and the control actions taken to implement it, as well as exports, foreign loans for investment and foreign investment.

According to Granma newspaper, the economy is expected to perform well in the first half of the year despite many hazards, said Alejandro Gil Fernández, first deputy minister of Economy and Planning, when he presented the estimated performance for the period to the Council of Ministers.

Among the aspects that have had the greatest impact on economic behavior are the insufficient availability of resources; the climatic impact on the sugar  cane harvest; the failure to comply with export earnings; and the impact of intense rains, in addition to the worsening of the U.S. blockade and its extraterritorial effects.

Nevertheless, moderate increases are estimated in the construction sector and trade, while favorable performances are reported in the main agricultural productions and the levels of activity of the food industry are mostly in line with the planned levels.

It is also a good thing that the number of visitors to tourism exceeded two million, which was made possible by the rapid recovery of all the damage caused by Hurricane Irma.

The importance of continuing joint work among all agencies in order to implement the plan was appreciated. There is still potential in the economy that allows us to continue advancing, for which it is necessary to focus the work to achieve higher levels of activity and efficiency.

The report provoked a broad debate among the participants in the meeting who addressed issues such as the importance of identifying existing reserves in each organization, achieving better control over the disaggregation of the Plan, and prioritizing the investments that can contribute most to the country's development.

Diaz-Canel stressed the need to prioritize investments with a productive impact.

He gave an example with the water systems projects, investments that ensure water for the population and agriculture, and more irrigation means more food; as well as investments in tourism, which provide immediate income, and those of the food industry, which replace imports and also allow for more products for the domestic market.

The Minister of Finance and Prices, Lina Pedraza Rodríguez, presented the report on the liquidation of the State Budget for 2017, in which it is stated that the budgetary execution recorded a fiscal deficit lower than that approved by the National Assembly of People's Power, as a result of the combined effect of over compliance with income and the non-execution of some expenditures.

Among other interesting data, it was said that the tax and non-tax revenues of the state sector represent approximately 86% of the total collection, which ratifies the state companies as the main contributors. Non-state forms of management account for 11% of the total.

On the property tax for local development, it was explained that the boards of the administration approved 525 million pesos for the repair and maintenance of state facilities, to respond to the proposals of voters and to solve problems in infrastructure for collective use.

The structure of the expenses in the activity budgeted, which denotes the character of Cuban Socialism, was detailed. Among them, 29 per cent were for public health and social assistance, 22 per cent for education and 16 per cent for social security.

In 2017, more than 21,000 people throughout the country benefited from subsidies for constructive actions in their homes, an issue on which the councils of provincial and municipal administrations have to speed up the delivery of these funds.

Under this agenda item, the representatives of the Ministries of Food Industry and Agriculture reported on the analyses and measures adopted in companies with higher contributions and over compliance due to profit tax and those that closed the year with unplanned losses.

At the end of the debate, the members of the Council of Ministers approved the submission of this report on the liquidation of the budget for the consideration of the National Assembly of People's Power at its next session for analysis and approval.

 The General Comptroller of the Republic, Gladys Bejerano Portela, announced the results of the audits carried out on the 2017 budget liquidation process, where discreet progress has been made. Among the main shortcomings were reservations in revenue planning and control of budget execution over the destination and use of expenditure.

In particular, several cases of overpayments for constructive work in different State institutions were analysed and are under investigation by the Ministry of the Interior and the Attorney-General's Office.

The First Vice President of the Councils of State and Ministers, Salvador Valdés Mesa, called for better planning and planning, with much greater effectiveness, especially in the case of the Budget. The revenue over-implementation reported in the report is a sample of the remaining planning reserves, which translates into the financial resources the country needs.

Meanwhile, Diaz-Canel considered that the levels of control over the State budget should be increased; the analysis of these cases should be systematized in the meetings of the Council of Ministers; strict tax discipline should be ensured; and adequate contractual relations should be maintained between the State sector and the self-employed.

The Cuban President stressed that the population should know more about what the country invests in education, health and social assistance, so that it can appreciate the influence that the execution of the Budget has on their daily lives.

He also agreed with the statement made by the First Vice-president of the Councils of States and Ministers to promote a broad debate on these issues at the next session of the National Assembly.

The next item of the agenda was devoted to the examination of the main issues that would allow for more rapid progress in exports, the use of credits and foreign investment.

Rodrigo Malmierca Díaz, Minister of Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment, said that "to achieve levels of economic growth that lead to development implies raising accumulation rates", for which it is essential to increase export earnings and foreign investment, as well as access to external resources through medium and long-term credits.

As a result of the approval of the Foreign Investment Policy and its new regulatory framework in 2014, there has been an increase in investments with foreign capital, but it still has a very low weight in relation to the country's total investment.

He referred to the fact that, in addition to objective issues such as the economic blockade and monetary and exchange rate duality, there are still subjective and organizational factors that limit exports, the use of credits and the attraction of foreign investment, which are closely related and must be addressed in a comprehensive manner.

The progress achieved in these three activities will be decisive in the country's economic results, it was emphasized.

In this regard, the Council of Ministers approved a series of decisions, including the creation of monthly dispatches with the heads of the Central State Administration agencies to check exports, business with foreign investment, and the management and execution of external loans on a case-by-case basis. Also, increase  control over companies that carry out foreign trade operations.

Finally, the President of the Councils of State and Ministers insisted on the need to give greater impetus to foreign investment in order to promote the country's development. We have to be creative and take risks, without affecting our sovereignty," he said.