Cuba’s trade prospects improve despite the blockade

Cuba news

From 1 to 6 November 2010, one week after the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly voted against the US blockade, 2,000 companies from 57 countries participated in the 28th International Trade Fair in Havana. Exhibitors included 70 companies from Spain, 30 from China and 12 from the US, down from 35 last year.

Opening the Fair, Foreign Trade Minister Rodrigo Malmierca announ­ced that in the first nine months of 2010, Cuban goods exports had increased 21% while imports had risen just 1%, reducing Cuba’s trade deficit by 7% from 2009 and creating the conditions for the government to deal with its foreign debt. In 2009 the value of Cuban goods trade produced a deficit of 67%, although this does not include significant service export revenues, mainly for medical personnel overseas and tourism.

Cuba’s fiscal and trade deficits, exacerbated by international price fluctuations and the costs of three devastating hurricanes in late 2008, generated a serious liquidity crisis in 2008-9. The Cuban government froze Cuban bank accounts held by foreign businesses and stopped paying foreign suppliers. This further reduced its access to external financing, already obstructed by the US blockade. How­ever, measures taken to increase domestic production, productivity and efficiency, and to reduce imports and Cuba’s vulnerability to volatile market prices, are already paying off. Access to bank accounts has been eased and repayments continue.

Malmierca said that the current reforms ‘will ensure a sustained increase in our economic efficiency, substantial saving of resources and a consolidated advance in the direction of remedying our external finances’.

Cuban Communist Party Congress called for April 2011

On 9 November, Raul Castro announ­ced that the 6th Congress of the Cuban Communist Party will take place in April 2011, on the 50th anniversary of the declaration of socialism and the Bay of Pigs invasion. This is after the completion of the first stage in changes to the employment structure, during which 500,000 surplus state sector workers will be transferred to other employment (see FRFI 217) by March 2011. The Congress will update the system of economic management and consolidate the economic and social guidelines of the Party and the Revolution in preparation for a future without its historic leadership.

In the lead up to the Congress, between 1 December 2010 and 28 February 2011, there will be a process of popular debates on the key political, economic and social issues to be addressed.

FRFI 218 December 2010/January 2011

Helen Yaffe

 

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