We have all lived through intense and exciting moments in the last few days.
In this very month of December we successfully held the Fifth CARICOM-Cuba Summit. Last Sunday we held the Thirteenth Summit of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America and, on that occasion, we paid a well-deserved tribute to their founders: our close friend and Bolivarian President, Hugo Cha'vez Frias, and the Commander of the Cuban Revolution, Comrade Fidel Castro Ruz.
Present in this session are Gerardo, Ramón and Antonio, a source of genuine rejoicing and happiness for all of our people --I will elaborate on this important even towards the final part of my statement. Also present here are comrades Fernando and Rene and the relatives of the Five Heroes, as well as the young Elia'n Gonza'lez, his father Juan Miguel and Colonel Orlando Cardoso Villavicencio, Hero of the Republic of Cuba, who endured a harsh incarceration for more than ten years in Somalia.
As has been the usual practice in the sessions of our Parliament, it is now my turn to make a review of the country's economic performance throughout the year that is about to conclude, as well as of the economic plan and budget for the year 2015, which have been thoroughly discussed by deputies in all the 10 commissions of the Assembly and also in yesterday's plenary session.
The Ninth Plenum of the Central Committee of the Party that was held on Thursday last was also devoted to the discussion of these issues. That is why I will just refer to them very briefly.
As has been already explained, the Gross Domestic Product, known as GDP, increased by 1.3 per cent, a figure below the originally planned rate, as a result of the insufficient economic performance during the first semester of the year, when we were faced with significant financial constraints deriving from the failure to meet the expected level of revenues from abroad, the adverse weather conditions and the internal insufficiencies in economic management.
Although, in fact, during the second semester of the year, we managed to modestly reverse that trend and achieve better results.
Next year's economic plan will consolidate and reinforce the trend towards a more solid growth of the Cuban economy, based on the optimal use of our reserves in terms of efficiency; the restoration of productive sectors, particularly the manufacturing industry; a more efficient use of energy sources and a higher number of investments in infrastructure and material production, while preserving social services, such as public health and education, for our population.
A GDP growth of a little more than 4 per cent has been projected for the year 2015. This is an attainable goal, considering that, as different from the situation faced in the early months of 2014, better funding has been guaranteed with sufficient time in advance, which in no way means that it will be an easy task. We will have to continue coping with the effects of the global economic crisis and the US blockade that still remains in force and creates undeniable obstacles to the development of our economy.
At the same time, we will continue to strictly honor the commitments entered into when we rescheduled our debts with our main creditors, thus contributing to the gradual recovery of the international credibility of the Cuban economy.
Yesterday afternoon, the National Assembly approved the Law on the State Budget for the year 2015, which envisages a 6.2 per cent deficit in the GDP, considered to be an acceptable rate under the present circumstances. New taxes will be implemented and the tax burden on the business system will be reduced with the gradual implementation of the Tax Law.
Likewise, a series of steps have been taken to control lack of discipline and tax evasion by both juridical and natural persons.
In this regard, we should not only penalize those who fail to comply with their duties, since impunity would encourage the infringement of the legal norms in force. We also considered it necessary to promote among all institutions, enterprises, cooperatives and self-employed workers a culture of civic behavior towards taxation as well as the view that taxes are the main formula for redistributing national income in the interest of all citizens.
Furthermore, implementation of the Guidelines of the Economic, Political and Social Policy of the Party and the Revolution, approved by the sixth Congress has continued. As has already been announced, we are now on a qualitatively higher stage of this process in which we are addressing extremely complex tasks, the solution of which will affect all aspects of national affairs.
I am referring first and foremost to the process aimed at unifying both currencies, an area in which sound progress has been achieved during the second half of this year from the conceptual point of view. We have managed to streamline a comprehensive program of measures in order to avoid damages to the economy and the population.
The decision to generalize sales in CUP (Cuban pesos) at the hard-currency stores has been positively welcomed by citizens, and this process will continue to expand in a gradual way. This is an auspicious occasion to ratify two concepts that we should not ignore.