12 November 2020
Posteado en : Entrevista
The European Union-Cuba Expertise Exchange II programme, funded by the European Union and managed by FIIAPP, works alongside ONAT, the Cuban National Office of Tax Administration. The Deputy Chief of Office, Reinaldo W. Alemán Mondeja, talks about how he has adapted his work to the COVID-19 pandemic.
What measures has ONAT taken to continue working during the pandemic?
ONAT has not only not halted its work, but has intensified and transformed it during this current pandemic.
The Ministry of Finance and Prices introduced a series of tax and financial measures to tackle the COVID-19 situation which mainly focus on three areas: salary guarantees for workers in the business sector, adjustments to personal income tax payments and tax payments by corporate entities.
To ensure compliance, ONAT has implemented a system that includes the following new features: Video conferences with Office managers, weekly reports that monitor the level and control of suspensions of operations, payment reductions and deferrals and their impact on collection a review of revenue collection and a redesign of fiscal controls.
General measures have also been taken to prevent any spread of the virus in ONAT offices. For example, all workers are monitored on a daily basis to identify possible manifestations of COVID-19, office premises and vehicles are regularly disinfected and adequate air flow and ventilation is guaranteed. Working from remotely and from home has also been promoted, limiting activity to what is strictly necessary and avoiding meetings, face-to-face training and any other procedures that involve people coming into close proximity with each other.
What has been done to prevent and avoid the spread of COVID-19?
In order to protect workers, our priority has been to comply with measures related to prevention and health, with the influx of people into office spaces also avoided. In cases where this is essential, attention to older taxpayers has been prioritised to avoid prolonging the time they spend on our premises.
The use of email and telephone communication has been encouraged when carrying out certain procedures, with a direct line set up to assist taxpayers in all municipal, provincial and central offices. For example, in the case of corporate entities, deferral requests are made by email.
Other measures worthy of mention are those that focus on the public dissemination of all action undertaken. Through the various means of communication available, the telephone numbers and addresses of all the offices in the country have been made public, with the introduction of a computer application that facilitates contact between the user and ONAT. The possibility of requesting payment deferrals has also been publicised through social media and websites, informing people as to what information is required for such procedures.
We have also stepped up communication through social media and on our website, aimed at tackling COVID-19, with messages such as: “Avoid going to ONAT offices, contact us by phone or email. By protecting yourself, we can protect everyone” and “Take care of your health and that of your family – use the bank’s electronic payment gateways”. At the National Tax Administration Office we care about managing payments; however, what matters most to us people’s health.
How have the public responded?
The degree of acceptance that these measures have had from people has been very positive. For example, the firstname.lastname@example.org service has been widely used. We have responded to a large number of questions and concerns regarding developments which have arisen due to the current situation. In Cuba, we used to experience events which affected certain areas of the country, such as those of a meteorological nature, but not in such a generalised way as with this pandemic.
The ONAT Telegram channel has been widely accepted, which today has a large number of subscribers, with news also posted online, as well as on ONAT institutional Facebook, YouTube and Twitter platforms. We are using a wide range of social media, infographics and short videos that explain the processes that have been put in place.
I can honestly say that the work that ONAT has undertaken has been very well received, which I think is due to the quality of the response given to these inquiries and all the efforts that have been made to facilitate these procedures for the public throughout the country.
The expertise exchange programme works alongside ONAT in a number of areas. Do you feel that the programme’s work on digitisation has helped the Office’s adaptation to the pandemic?
Both the work on digitising processes and the acquisition of computer equipment through the programme have been key at this time.
The acquisition of video-conferencing technology has been decisive, as it not only helps us to connect with the provinces and manage a range of procedures with them, but it has also allowed us to connect internationally, for example with CIAT, the Inter-American Center of Tax Administrations.
However, that has not been the most important aspect. The video conferencing system has also served to remotely train our staff throughout Cuba in order to show, exchange, supervise and monitor, given the impossibility of travelling between provinces.
We feel that the diversification of activities developed within the framework of the European Union-Cuba Expertise Exchange II programme to be of great importance – workshops in Cuba and in other countries, internships abroad, participation in national and international events, exchanges in conferences with international organisations and the meetings we have had between the institutions that are part of the programme. All this has helped raise the technical professional level and the innovative capacity of our specialists, managers and civil servants. All of this ties in with some of the measures implemented in this phase of COVID-19. For instance, we are working on improving taxpayer services in relation to online tax payment, introducing a number of computer applications and methods, the knowledge for which has been learnt during the programme’s activities.
We really need to keep looking for solutions to the problems we face. If we can virtually host an administrative session of the CIAT Assembly and train our staff, we are sure that we will be able to continue to provide training within the framework of the Programme.
So far we have not stopped working, ensuring that a great deal has been done for the good of the taxpayer, the nation and our own organisation. We have had very valuable experiences that will stay with us, so we are sure that the programme will continue to contribute in all aspects to keep our organisation and our country moving forward.
I would like to repeat my pleasure at being part of this team and also having FIIAPP‘s support on this journey.
23 June 2020
The biopharmaceutical sector in Cuba has managed to take significant steps forward in the midst of the Covid-19 crisis. Darien García tells us about this below
The expert from the Cuba-EU II Experiences Exchange project, Darien García Díaz, shares with us the important advances that the programme is making in the Cuban biopharmaceutical sector in the current context of Covid-19. He also relates how the programme has had to adapt to new circumstances to continue its operation and joint cooperation.
Composed of more than 30 institutions, BioCubaFarma is the main business group in the Cuban biopharmaceutical sector. Its structure, which includes closed cycle centres, enables ideas to be generated leading to innovative products, their development, production, and marketing, it also promotes the training of young professionals through its academic programmes and close collaboration with the Ministry of Public Health and the Cuban educational system. The main priority for the products produced in its facilities is to supply the national networks of pharmacies and hospitals, and secondly, they constitute an important source of exports that, due to their quality, have contributed to gaining a well-deserved international reputation. Areas such as cancer, complications of diabetes, autoimmune diseases and infectious diseases are successfully addressed through its research programmes.
The need to properly evaluate the efficiency of these products in terms of their costs and therapeutic effects using pharmaco-economic tools led to the start of a successful collaboration relationship with the European Union, through the Experience Exchange Programme coordinated by FIIAPP and the Cuban National Economic Research Institute (INIE). More than 8 actions have and are being carried out with international experts in the field during the 2018-2020 period, with the Carlos III University in Madrid playing a fundamental role in their coordination, leading to the training of 21 Cuban specialists who have been involved in achieving important objectives for BioCubaFarma. The main results include the economic evaluation of Heberprot P for diabetic foot ulcers in Mexico, which allowed it to be accepted by the corresponding regulatory bodies; the economic evaluation of nimotuzumab for head and neck cancer; and cost studies on vaccination programmes for pneumococcus and rotavirus in Cuba.
In the midst of the current Covid-19 epidemic which has led to an international economic and health crisis, the identification of actions that will enable the accelerated implementation of programmes to combat the virus and adequate decision-making have become a priority for the Experience Exchange Programme and for BioCubaFarma. The international event “Virtual ISPOR 2020 HEOR: Advancing Evidence to Action” arose as a unique opportunity that is part of this strategy. The sessions included a plenary conference to investigate the results and economic aspects related to Covid-19, as well as topics covering the challenges for health policies, clinical decision-making and new designs for cost-effectiveness studies. Case studies were presented including the Singapore National Centre for Infectious Diseases and its Outpatient Screening and Capabilities Centre. In addition, the presentation discussed the strategies for detecting suspected cases during outbreaks and protocols for segregating patients with different risk levels to prevent cross-infection.
The virtual nature of the programme allowed the participation of a Cuban specialist as delegate and an exchange between top-level figures along with access to more than 60 hours of conferences that will be kept as reference material for the Cuban company and other interested international entities. Additionally, membership of ISPOR was organised for the participating Cuban specialist, which allows access to leading publications on the subject, additional virtual events and exchange networks in this discipline that will have a positive impact on BioCubaFarma.
The continuation of the actions from the Experience Exchange Programme with the European Union in the current international context, undoubtedly, represents an important cooperation action that will raise the scientific, economic and social standards of the Cuban biopharmaceutical company.
Darien García Díaz, a specialist from the BioCubaFarma Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology and counterpart in the Cuba-EU II Experience Exchange Programme.
21 May 2020
Alma Martín, support technician for the EU-Cuba Experience Exchange project, updates us on how the activities programmed to promote renewable energy sources in the country have been reassessed. She gives us her view on how to transform the limitations caused by COVID into advantages for the project.
Participating in the management of an international cooperation project is a fascinating job, although sometimes the rush and deadlines do not allow us to enjoy the work we do or to measure the great difference that its implementation makes for its beneficiaries. However, a momentous event such as COVID19 making its appearance in our lives upsets any plans and expectations we may all have. There is no SWOT analysis that foresees a context like the current one. And despite the seriousness of the situation and the problems we are facing, it is precisely now that an opportunity is arising that cannot be missed: to carefully address important aspects of the activities we are carrying out, paying more attention to them if possible and dedicating more time to them than ever, to ensure that when we can start them up, they will be as successful as we hope.
One of the most important activities carried out this year in the EU-Cuba Experience Exchange Project for the promotion of renewable energy sources and energy efficiency in Cuba, which we are working on at the FIIAPP, is the “Cuba sustainable energy forum” whose second edition was scheduled for June this year; the current circumstances have made it necessary to change the dates, possibly to September of this year. The Forum, organized by the Cuban Ministry of Energy and Mines, the Delegation of the European Union of Cuba and with the support of Fira Barcelona, will be held at the PABEXPO fairground area (Havana).
In the days before, a series of parallel events will be held in the city of Santa Clara aimed at promoting foreign investment in bioelectric plants (organized by the state group AZCUBA) with the involvement of the Universities of the Caribbean and Cuba (organized by the Central University of Villas) that will include a visit to the Ciego de Ávila bioelectric plant.
Taking advantage of this forced recess, we have been finalizing details to ensure that this forum is a once again a success, and offering Cuban regional institutions and universities a space for encounters and dialogue where more than 150 people will be able to exchange experiences and the latest sector know-how. Through workshops planned around four main topics (solar thermal energy, electric mobility, energy accumulation and energy efficiency), national and international experts of recognized prestige in the field will, together with Cuban institutional personnel and directors of regional and international organizations, address the current situation and development of technologies, as well as international advances and agreements within the sector, which will undoubtedly encourage the implementation of the country’s new energy modernization policy.
The Forum thus adds to the efforts of the country and MINEM to incorporate energy efficiency and renewable energy sources. Among the objectives of the new energy policy, in 2030 it is expected that renewable energy in electricity generation will increase by 24%, produce 7,316 GWh/year, replace 1.75 million tons of fossil fuel and save emitting 6 million tons of CO2/year in the country.
Sometimes taking a step back allows you to take a firmer step forward later and make the leap that ensures you achieve your goals. By overcoming adversity and taking advantage of the opportunity that is presented to us, we will contribute much more to this project and go much further than we had intended.
Alma Martín Pérez, support technician for the EU-Cuba Experience Exchange Project.
19 December 2019
Alma Martín Pérez, a support technician in the EU-Cuba Exchange of Experiences programme to promote renewable energy sources and energy efficiency reflects on programme participation at COP25 and the results of the summit.
The COP25 World Climate Summit expected more ambitious agreements on climate change neutrality by 2050. The frantic level of discussions and negotiations from the almost 200 countries participating in the summit relentlessly sought a last-minute consensus. Nonetheless, the CO2 emissions market and other relevant issues were postponed until Glasgow COP26, scheduled for November 2020.
Over two weeks, representatives from countries, international organisations, institutions and civil society produced figures that testify to the urgent need for action: The oceans are receiving 13,000,000 tonnes of plastic annually, increasing acidification of the seas is affecting fishing and impacts on food security. Three quarters of the planet are under threat, over one million species are at risk of extinction, greenhouse gases have reached a new high. The next 50 years will see 250 million to 1 billion environmental refugees. The data is overwhelming. Commitments are needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and avoid the temperature rising by over 1.5 degrees.
Nonetheless, COP25 was not only about raising the alarm and the environmental emergency. It also offered spaces for awareness and dialogue to address environmental issues from a multi-disciplinary approach: biodiversity, gender, migration, town planning, industry, finance, technological development, etc. A wide range of topics to ensure that both specialists and the general public alike learn of the situation as it stands, without giving way to drama and pessimism, because there is still time to act.
Accordingly, FIIAPP worked closely with the High Commissioner for the 2030 Agenda, Cristina Gallach, helping to organise COP and promoting different activities, such as the panel on “Energy transition and economic investment opportunities in Cuba” in collaboration with the project coordinator Maite Jaramillo, Felice Zaccheo (European Commission Head of the Regional Programs Unit for Latin America and the Caribbean), Marlenis Águila (Director of Renewable Energies at the Cuban Ministry of Energy and Mines), Elaine Moreno (General Director of the National Energy Office in Cuba – ONURE), Ramsés Montes (Director of Energy Policy at ONURE) and Eric Sicart (Fira Barcelona). This event falls within the scope of the EU-Cuba Experience Exchange programme to promote renewable energy sources and energy efficiency, which is funded by the European Union and managed by FIIAPP. The main elements of the programme were highlighted at this event, along with the opportunities and challenges facing Cuba in developing renewable sources and using energy efficiently.
Island countries are directly subject to the consequences of climate change and are aware of how strongly environmental protection is linked to sustainable economic and social development. Formed by specialists from MINEM and ONURE, the Cuban delegation invited to the COP used the panel to announce the country’s ambitious policy to substantially reduce the use of hydrocarbons and carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 by progressively increasing renewable energy sources and enhancing their use in the electric power generation matrix.
Beyond the COP, the international community has begun to take steps towards ecological transition. However, the challenge is to do so in time and justly and fairly to prevent a worsening of existing inequalities. The responsibility for change requires public policies by countries, international and regional organisations aimed at decarbonising the economy, adapting the current system to the Sustainable Development Goals and the 2030 Agenda.
Even though the agreements reached at COP are not those envisaged, one thing has become evident in the course of the summit, namely, the interest of Spanish society in strengthening climatic action and in progressing towards CO2 emission neutrality. It is time to act and seek joint solutions.