CUBA

Report says Cuban economic growth hasn’t quickened despite reforms

 

jtamayo@ElNuevoHerald.com

Cuba said Monday its economy will grow by no more than 3 percent this year, about the same as in 2012 but far short of the 3.6 percent goal and another indication that ruler Raúl Castro’s reforms are generating little new economic activity.

Castro, nevertheless, seemed pleased with the reports on his reforms submitted Friday to a meeting of the Council of Ministers and detailed in a story Monday in Granma, the official newspaper of the ruling Communist Party.

“We continue advancing and the results can be seen. We are moving at a faster pace than can be imagined by those who criticize our supposed slow pace and ignore the difficulties that we face,” he was quoted as saying at the meeting.

Since succeeding older brother Fidel in 2008, Castro has allowed more private enterprise and cut state payrolls and subsidies. But many economists have dismissed his reforms as too slow and too weak to rescue Cuba’s Soviet-styled economy.

Minister of the Economy and planning Adel Yzquierdo told the Cabinet meeting that he expects Gross Domestic Product will grow by between 2.5 and 3 percent, far short of the 3.6 percent goal. The country’s GDP grew by 3 percent last year.

GDP growth for the first half of this year was estimated at 2.3 percent, compared to 2.1 percent for the same period last year, he added. Cuba uses a unique way of counting GDP that exaggerates the number when compared to other countries.

Yzquierdo blamed the shortcomings on a broad range of factors that went from last year’s Hurricane Sandy — it caused an estimated $2 billion in damages — to what Granma called “the deficiencies that are part and parcel of the Cuban economy.”

Granma and Yzquierdo ticked off a list of reasons for the economic stagnation, from delays in projects to broken contracts and “the low productivity and shortage of the labor force” as well as the economic situation in Latin America and the rest of the world.

Spending on social services remained stable for the first semester of this year, Yzquierdo declared, and many parts of the economy grew at a 2.9 percent clip or better. But the sugar harvest fell 192,000 tons short of goal and bean production fell 6,000 tons short.

Government spending on construction and other capital projects was 16.6 percent higher than in the first semester last year but 9 percent short of goal because of delays and others issues, the minister said.

Exports grew by 5 percent, Granma reported, and lower prices on imported food meant savings of $168 million. But shortcomings in Cuban farming forced the government to import an unplanned $46 million worth of food. Cuba must import more than 70 percent of the food items it consumes, at a cost of more than $1.5 billion a year.

Underlining Cuba’s economic stagnation, Vice President Marino Murillo, in charge of implementing the Castro reforms, told the Cabinet that the government will “promote” the use of bicycles to cover gaps in public transportation, according to Granma.

“We will evaluate the sale at cost of parts for their maintenance,” Murillo was quoted as saying in the lengthy Granma report summing up the Cabinet meeting.

The government sold Cubans more than 1 million bicycles, most of them made in China, after the Soviet Union collapsed in the early 1990s and halted it massive cash and oil subsidies to the communist-ruled island.

But by 1996 about one-third of Havana residents had stopped using their bikes because of the lack of spare parts, the bad state of Cuba’s streets and lack of night lights, according to a report in 2011 by the Agence France Press news agency.

The AFP report noted that Havana authorities had already decided to cut the price of spare parts by 30 percent, guarantee the work of 105 repair shops and 110 air pumping stations and try to create about 100 miles of bike lanes.

Murillo also listed a series of problems with the public transportation system — bus passengers not paying their fares and bus company employees stealing the money, and a black market for fuel and spare parts mostly stolen from state enterprises.

The government plans to use plastic cards to control fuel purchases by public transport employees — the principal source of black market fuel — crack down on the theft and offer higher salaries to sector workers, he said, without raising prices.

Read more Cuba stories from the Miami Herald

  •  
Havana author Polina Martínez Shvietsova wrote that the shortage of condoms in state-run pharmacies started about 15 days ago, although shops that cater mostly to foreigners still sell the prophylactics at $1.30 each — a day’s wage for the average Cuban.

    CUBA

    Condom shortage hits Cuba

    Condoms are now going for $1.30 — when Cubans can find them.

  •  
FILE--Frank Calzon, a Cuban-American who smuggles items like bibles and televisions into Cuba, displays merchandise in his Washington Freedom House office in this June 12, 1996 file photo.

    CUBA

    Cat-and-mouse secrecy game plays out daily in Cuba

    In Cuba, dissidents and supporters abroad who send them assistance are forever searching for ways to avoid the attention of the communist government’s security agents.

  •  
Alan Gross

    CUBA

    Gross ends hunger strike in Cuba

    U.S. government subcontractor Alan P. Gross, jailed in Havana for more than four years, suspended his because his mother asked him to stop, according to a family statement.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category