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FBIS-LAT-94-085 Daily Report 2 May 1994 CARIBBEAN Cuba

ANPP Special Session Continues in Havana

Castro Addresses Afternoon Session

FL0205113294 Havana Tele Rebelde Network in Spanish 0131 GMT 2 May 94 FL0205113294 Havana Tele Rebelde Network Spanish BFN [Address by President Fidel Castro to the special session of the National Assembly of the People's Government, ANPP, at the Convention Center in Havana, on 1 May -- recorded]

[Text] Alarcon, if I may make some comments.

I see this progressing well because everyone is speaking and expressing their ideas and points of view. We do have time, because there is no time limit on this session.

It is good, and I believe that this is somewhat the way it is taking place: We are discussing the essence of the issues. Although I have a different opinion on what Osvaldo [Martinez] says about money hoarders and others. I spoke because those who drafted the resolution bill do not at all link money hoarders and the change of currency. There are many other reasons for the currency change, justifying it or not. The change of currency is among the arsenal of measures we can take.

I believe that we have to withhold for ourselves the right to the highest possible number of alternatives in order to find a solution to this problem. I truly believe that it is not worthwhile to do anything halfway. If the measures are inadequate, it would be a disaster. As Osvaldo himself said, the problem can replicate itself and that would be worse. This is a cancer whose origin we know and which we cannot overlook; it is the special period we are confronting. This is why it is called a special period. The factors that gave rise to this period are still present. It has been an extraordinary deed, resisting as we have resisted; but it brings consequences.

A humane policy, a policy of solidarity with the people, a policy of not leaving anyone abandoned had logically to result in a currency excess. That was endurable for a while. However, within the special period, the time has come when the problem of excess currency has to be solved in the special period. This is not so easy, although several judicious comrades have said, yes, we have to increase production and services. That is a truism. However, we need raw materials, hard currency to buy those raw materials, spare parts, oil, and other things.

I want to stress that everything described so far is not solvable with a ton of fuel. We are not talking about fuel. We are talking about the currency excess, a problem we have to solve within the special period and in order to try to overcome the special period. This is why we should not do anything halfway. If we are going to do things halfway, it is better to do nothing. We have to solve the problem. Solving the problem requires calculating well what we can and ought to do so that the problem does not recur. It would be a great waste of time. This is why we must have available the entire arsenal of measures needed to fulfill the principle of not letting the problem reproduce. In other words, this cancer created under the special period conditions cannot be allowed to replicate. Its roots must be removed. We have to seek not only a balance but also to know how long it will take to reach that balance and how we are going to shrink it. How to shrink the imbalance. How to do so in a definitive manner.

This is not easy. I believe one of the most difficult things we can contemplate is finding a solution to the problem of domestic finances under the special period conditions. We have to be truly creative. Gladys [Bejerano] said that the people understand. That is true. Their awareness is broader every day. Every meeting held has contributed to this. From the beginning, it was said that we did not want to solve this overnight from a governmental level, as is done everywhere else in the world, without debating anything with anybody. We brought the problem to the National Assembly. This was not enough. We brought it before the people, the masses. It has been discussed by the masses. We are discussing it here, once again. We have made the discussion extremely broad.

These are issues not easily discussed in public. I still have the hope that we are in a position to make the best decisions in the end without letting the most brilliant of the money hoarders -- that new character who has emerged, an old character who now has gained new life -- without letting the cleverest among the clever, or the best hustler among hustlers, come up with some way to escape with impunity despite the fact that we have done what nobody else has: We have publicly discussed the problem.

I have seen such comments on the television, which have made me ask myself: If I were a money hoarder, what would I do? Some have said....[pauses] The theoreticians have spoken. We have bunches of theoreticians. First, we have the true theoreticians; second, the theoreticians who believe themselves theoreticians, the nontheoreticians who believe themselves theoreticians; and third, all the rest who believe themselves theoreticians and experts. They have been inventing things, and are trying to divine our thoughts.

We have to discuss with the greatest democracy in the world and, at the same time, keep a certain discretion and the most private secrets of our minds.

I was saying that Gladys mentioned the awareness that has developed, thanks to the scope and level of the discussions. This problem has been discussed by millions of people. Problems which, anywhere else in the world, only a few experts and specialists discuss: That is it.

Certainly, we have made progress; but we are still far from having a full understanding of the problem. Certain well-prepared comrades here have demonstrated this because not even they have a full understanding of the problem. Many people do not understand yet. This is logical because the problem is very technical and complex. Even here, we hear phrases that make us want to laugh. Everyone agrees on the need to find solutions; but no one wants a tax on his wages, not a cent cut. Everyone agrees with streamlining finances; yet the flow of money in the form of salaries is enormous. No one wants that cut. Students do not want their stipends cut. They are willing to give up their lives 15 times for the Revolution, socialism, and the streamlining of finances -- but they do not want to hear about their stipends being cut.

Their stipends are used even to buy goods in the black market -- they acknowledged this with much honesty -- or to go see their girl friends, or do something more vital such as visiting a sick relative. I am not saying that seeing their girl friends is not vital. I am saying that visiting a sick relative is, generally, more vital. They just do not want their stipends cut.

I have heard others say, right here, that we have to find formulas to be able to deregulate cigarettes so that there are enough for everyone at a reasonable price. These are truly unique hopes. We could spare ourselves the entire meeting and say: We are done; the solution is clear; we have to find abundant things at reasonable prices.

Many want an increase in cigarette prices. The earlier comment by a comrade about the pain of seeing people living off the sale of their cigarette quota is true. Yet, there are many others who do not want cigarette prices increased. We spoke about beer. There was not even a sound, because there is no beer. However, when we spoke about rum there were rumblings. Everyone would like to streamline the finances but keep the goodies.

Two comrades spoke about reasonable tobacco prices. I could ask: What is a reasonable price so that, in addition, there is enough for everyone and it is sold freely? Does anyone know this? We will have simply to calculate the packs, this and that, current production, future production, this year's harvest, and so on.

We cannot say that we are truly ready. That is the truth. No one doubts that everyone wants solutions; but, at the same time, when one studies each case, they want the solutions without having to take that kind of measure. This is why we have to be very aware that the measures are hard and they have to be taken in order to solve the problem and not stop halfway. Otherwise, everything we are doing is not worth the effort.

The measures we have to take under these special period conditions are difficult measures. It is necessary to have the most widespread understanding. This is what we have been trying to do. We cannot doubt here for a moment the spirit and intent of the comrades participating in this assembly. I see a purity and dignity, a complete commitment, and a desire to find solutions. I do not harbor doubts on the behavior of the assembly, the workers' movement, or the mass organizations' support for these measures, measures we must take. We have no other choice because they are part of the special period. The special period, upholding a humane point of view, had inevitably to result in the currency excess.

This was studied long before the special period, when the possibilities of a total blockade against Cuba were studied. This resulted in the special period in time of war. Later came the special period in time of peace. It was the same thing. We underwent a double blockade. The one from the Yankees intensified, and trade with the socialist bloc and the former USSR disappeared. That is the reality. What was left of that market was so little that we can speak of it's disappearing. Thus, the situation became even worse than what was conceived as a special period in time of war.

All these measures had been discussed. It was even discussed -- it was not urgent then -- what to do with money during the special period. Was money to continue to exist in the special period, or was it simply going to be eliminated and goods distributed among the population, whatever was available?

We never got around to deciding what to do with money. However, since this has been a special period, not a regular special period or the one we had studied, we were surprised by a special period with unique characteristics: The collapse of the socialist bloc, collapse of the USSR, complete loss of trade, loss of oil supplies, food, raw materials, and all that. The special period came without our having reached a decision on what to do with money. We could have eliminated money during the special period and we would not be here discussing this. There would be no money hoarders. There would be barter, exchange of a pack of cigarettes for bread or rice or the like. This would exist but there would be no money. The idea of money not playing any role during the special period was contemplated.

However, the special period came gradually, somewhat abruptly but not overnight as in the case of a naval blockade. We have tried, under these conditions, to maintain the normal situation of the nation. Money continued to circulate and it accumulated. Now, we have the situation of a special period with money, and we are discussing what to do with the money. So far, no one has suggested eliminating money. On the contrary, suggestions have been made to continue the struggle with money. The discussions center on what to do with money and how to handle the money available. As you can see, we are working to solve the problem with the money in existence.

I forgot to mention that while we were talking about the 11, 12, 13, I do not know how many billion pesos, a comrade proposed here that the problem be solved by giving incentives to farmers and cooperatives. If we were to give the farmers better prices than the ones they have now -- those that state collection pays them, not that they get in the black market -- every farmer would end up being a Rockefeller. They have prices in addition to wages.

That same comrade also spoke about salaries. On one hand, we are discussing what to do with the excess billions; and on the other, we are talking about more price incentives. Certain theories from the experts, and I include among these Jose Luis [Rodriguez], whom we greatly appreciate and are very pleased with his address; Osvaldo [Martinez] also....[pauses] I am not an expert or anything thing like it, but I have tried to use common sense all my life. I ask myself: What taxes will we have to pay so that the people openhandedly, generously, and massively invest their money in bonds? Or put it all in the banks by virtue of the immense interest we are going to pay? I do not know if it will be 100, or 200, or 300 percent. Yet they want to prevent the cancer from reproducing. If they implement a theory of interest rate increases, perhaps in three or four years the excess currency will be 20 or 30 billion instead of 11 or 12.

I listen carefully to the experts but I also distrust them because at times they can lead us astray. They can lead us to implement technocratic policies. This is why, in the end, we have do to it with the utmost cooperation of experts, politicians, and those assuming the responsibility. Here, we must be courageous. Courageous above all, not only intelligent but also courageous. If we are afraid, we are lost. If we do things halfway, we are lost. History has laid on us the responsibility to solve these problems. In the end, we have to assume the responsibility and solve the problems with political, revolutionary, and technical savvy.

There may be things implemented, in the end, as a pedagogical exercise, for example, charging entry fees at stadiums. Jose Luis said that charging for sports would bring in approximately 4.3 million pesos. I do not know how much -- talk is cheap -- we will have to pay to ticket workers to earn four million. Yet, we may approve this decision as a matter of principle in order to accustom the people, to get them used to pay and appreciate things more, to make them more aware of the moment we are experiencing, to make the people need money.

Since we are keeping money, since we are not going to eliminate money, we have to make money be worth something and make the people need money. We have no other choice. Otherwise, it will happen as a comrade said. We do not have service workers. The trained work force is joining the cabbies. There are some cabbies making 3,000 pesos, at least in Las Tunas. If we manage to collect a good amount of money through diverse means, even the cabbies' prices will have to go down because there will no longer be people paying 80 cents for a 10-block ride.

We have to be greatly concerned with salaries. If we truly reduce the amount of money in circulation by the various ways suggested, we are going to give money back its value. Those making 100 pesos today are going to make much more, because even what is sold on the streets at abusive prices will have to be sold at lower prices. It is not only a matter of streamlining finances but of restoring the value of money and salaries. These are truly important things. These are crucial things and I believe we must be willing to take whatever measures are necessary. [applause]

Even if, the next morning, no one even wants to greet us. [applause] I would add not only next morning, but for months after that. None of these will be one-day measures, nor will the measures be understood in one day. Only the sum of the measures will be understood; only the sum of the measures will yield results and increase understanding.

The measures must follow an order. It is not a matter of taking any one measure today and any other tomorrow. The measures have to follow a rigorous order because in this case, the order of the factors alters the result. Jose Luis pointed out that some measures will, in practice, take months; some will take two months, others three. There may be certain measures that are not understood by the people when they are first implemented. This measure alone is not going to be the solution. It is only the first. Later on, they will see a second and, perhaps, better understand the first. However, these measures....[pauses] The measures have to form a group of measures by the time we reach the final decision. They have to follow an order and follow an implementation schedule, as well as a clear, very clear goal: the goal we have been pointing out here.

This is not independent of the special period. It requires the utmost understanding of the people. This does not mean the people are going to be happy with the measures. Some of them....[pauses].

Someday, we may have to charge a compounded tax to self-employed workers. Self-employment does not convey the right to become a millionaire. A self-employed worker with a horse and carriage, given the transportation shortages we have in certain cities and the abundance of money, allows a cabby to have up to five employees. One to take care of the carriage, another the horse, another to cut the grass -- a complete bourgeois, who does not even want to hear the word tax.

Well, this country has to get used to the idea of taxes. Nunez Rodriguez spoke about this. About spoiled sons, prodigal sons, the generous father. It is true that we have become prodigal sons. However, a great majority of our people has an awareness and we can tell this because we see them working. With what are we paying those who do the harvest, who fight to overcome the lack of spare parts, tires, everything, who cut a slender cane because they did not get fuel? Are we paying them in hard currency? We are paying them in pesos. Those pesos of which there is an excess. Yet they are cutting sugarcane right now as we debate here -- on 1 May, on a Sunday.

Tomorrow, they will also be out there cutting sugarcane. Likewise, many people are working at this time. This is the majority of our people. [applause] However, there is a dead weight that wants to live without working. The healthy side has to win over the rotten side. The worker has to win over the idle with this group of measures which it is necessary to implement at a very difficult time. A time of excess [currency].

This is not the first time the country has had a budget deficit or a financial imbalance. These were solved before and the people were not even aware of it. Yet, we have to solve this imbalance under special period conditions because it is already causing great, great damage.

With intelligence, perseverance, and courage we must win this battle, although many will not immediately understand. They will understand later.

Whatever we do regarding the change of currency mentioned by Osvaldo, it is clear that we have to make the people trust our banks. We can not fritter away the day, sucking our thumbs. Yes, we know what is in and is not in the banks, and when it was deposited and when it was not.

I remember the first day we spoke about this. I said: This is a public battle but there is an art about it. When did we first speak about this? When did we broach it again? When, for a third time? They are not going to trick us so easily. We have to give a differentiated treatment to everyone. This is why we have to study it, use intelligence and imagination in order to preserve all those values that must be preserved. The most important value we have to preserve is the value of the wages of the workers. That is the one we have to revalue. The second value is that of the worker who made his money honestly.

We have to differentiate. How do we do this? We have thought much about how to do it. However, you must allow us to keep some secrets. In war, you do not say where the division is going to strike, nor when, or how many soldiers, pieces of artillery, or tanks. This is not divulged. We have said everything that needs to be said so that the problem is understood. In the end, we must keep to the end the tactics to be used. This is why it is not possible to openly and totally discuss the tactics. We have discussed here, in general, the goals, the strategy, the things being done and why.

Please excuse this interruption. It is my greatest wish, and that of all of us, to get the most out of this assembly and to be aware that what we are discussing is a complex problem, a difficult problem, I repeat, which demands political courage from the ANPP and the revolutionaries. Thank you very much.