Cuba to create agency to fight corruption "cancer"
Cuba's National Assembly will set up a powerful new agency on Saturday tasked with fighting corruption, which President Raul Castro has called a "deadly cancer" plaguing the communist-ruled island's economy, Reuters reported.
In his regular Thursday spot on state television, Cuba's top economic commentator Ariel Terrero said the Comptroller General's Office, to be created through new legislation, will try to ensure that state revenues are properly used.
The office will replace the Ministry of Auditing and Control and be attached to the Council of State. It will have sweeping powers to audit and control all government and economic entities.
"This will ... help avoid or limit the possibility (of corruption) and respond to corrupt acts," said Terrero, who regularly comments on economic affairs in the state media.
Raul Castro, who took over the presidency from his ailing elder brother Fidel Castro last year, has vowed to make the struggling economy more efficient and productive. This includes cracking down on graft, he has said.
Cuba's campaign against corruption in its society and economy has been a long one, with what leaders consider high stakes for the future of the communist system installed after Fidel Castro took power in a 1959 revolution.
Transparency International, a leading organization in the global fight against corruption, ranked Cuba 65th of 180 countries on its 2008 corruption index, better placed than most countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.
But fighting corruption is not easy on an island gripped by economic crisis where inequality is growing and the average wage of ministers and company managers is between $40 and $100 per month including bonuses.
One western diplomat said replacing the Auditing Ministry with the Comptroller's Office was a "cosmetic" step, as most Cubans, from the humble to the privileged, struggle to make ends meet, often involving illegal transactions.
Diversion of goods to the black market and retail-level theft are so widespread that many people hawk their stolen wares in front of shopping malls.