The Cuban government’s past agricultural policies blocked the needed growth in production, and 22 percent of the water that reaches the country’s homes is wasted because of leaks, according to an official report released Monday.
The 2,700-word report in the newspaper Granma, summing up information disseminated during a meeting of the ruling Council of Ministers on Friday, indicated the myriad problems that Cuba faces in exports and imports, labor, prices and other sectors.
On agriculture, Vice President Marino Murillo, in charge of the economic reforms ordered by ruler Raúl Castro, told the Council that the country needs to “rectify the distortions that have impacted the economic results.”
“The measures that have been put in use for managing the land for decades have not led to the necessary increase in production,” Murillo declared. “It is necessary to put all producers on the same level, unleash the productive forces and boost their efficiency.”
He added that all agricultural producers will soon be allowed to sell their goods to anyone — after they have met their obligations for deliveries to state enterprises — but gave no further details on the coming changes.
The Cuban government owns 80 percent of the country’s agricultural lands, and has been importing around $1.5 billion per year in food products to cover shortfalls in domestic production.
Castro has ordered reforms in the agricultural sector to increase production, such as leasing fallow state lands to private farmers. Yet, the production of some food items has been dropping and prices have been rising.
On the water leaks, Inés María Chapman, head of the National Institute for Hydraulic Resources, acknowledged that the plumbing in Cuba homes is so deteriorated that 22 percent of the water that reaches them is wasted.
The main sources of the waste, Chapman said, are leaks in the homes’ pipes and rooftop water tanks — which most families have installed to capture water when it is available and save it for the many other times when the supply is cut off.
Chapman said the government has budgeted money to update the only island enterprise that manufactures plumbing supplies, 30 years old and producing only 40 percent of the country’s needs because of its “high level of deterioration and obsolescence.”
The government will price the supplies at close to cost, she added, and will subsidize the prices for poor families.
Chapman’s description of the problems, including the illegal tapping into main water distribution lines for private use and the hoarding and illegal re-sale of plumbing supplies, drew a strong statement from Castro.
“We must be intransigent in confronting these violations, which almost always occur in plain sight,” Castro was quoted as saying. “In order to have order and discipline, we must be demanding.”
A Cuban television report in September noted that the island loses up to 58 percent of the water pumped into its nearly 13,000 miles of distribution pipes, largely because of broken pipes and illegal taps.