Monday, November 10, 2014

Cuba pins economic hopes on foreign investment

Cuba pins economic hopes on foreign investment
AP 9 a.m. EST November 9, 2014

HAVANA — Cuba is asking international firms to invest more than $8
billion in the island as it attempts to kick start a centrally planned
economy starved for cash and hamstrung by inefficiency.

Foreign Commerce Minister Rodrigo Malmierca Diaz has announced a list of
246 projects Cuba wants that would require $8.7 billion in investment,
ranging from farms to a light auto plant.

Cuba says foreign investment must reach $2 billion annually to increase
an economic growth rate not expected to exceed 1% this year.

The list announced at Havana's International Fair on Monday is the
latest step in Cuba's push for foreign capital that also includes a law
relaxing conditions for investment and the creation of a special trade
zone in the Mariel port west of Havana.

It's looking to push growth to 5% annually, but the reform effort
appears to have had few results so far. Cuba has yet to announce any
foreign investment projects for the Mariel trade zone nearly a year
after the port opened with $600 million from Brazil — two-thirds of the
project's cost.

Chinese executive George Yan said he asked in May for permission to
build a $1 million plant at Mariel that would employ 100 Cubans to
assemble energy-saving LED lights. Despite receiving initial approval
three months later, he has not been shown potential sites for the
factory or received other indications the project can proceed.

In China, he said, "this would take 24 hours."

"The Cubans have a certain fear that if they go fast they can't reverse
any decision, so they prefer to go more slowly and do all the studies,"
he said.

Yan nevertheless said he was optimistic Cuba would move faster in the
coming year.

"Many people complain about the time in which we do things, but
everyone's got their own pace," Malmierca said. "We're going to do this
our way and we want to do it well."

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