HAVANA TIMES – Despite the high profile tourism boom, the Cuban government reported today that the national economy actually contracted by 0.9 percent in 2016, compared with 4.4 growth percent the year before.
The official annual data confirms the slowdown already announced during the first half of the year, when the government reported a growth of only one percent, which lowered the possibility of reaching the projected two percent for this year.
Economy and Planning Minister Ricardo Cabrisas told the National Assembly that the causes of the negative growth included decreased exports and the economic difficulties of allies led by Venezuela.
“This confirms the tense situation we face with the availability of foreign currency, non-compliance with the plan for exports and strong limitations on the supply of fuels that cannot be reversed in the short term,” Cabrisas told the deputies.
Despite the poor results this year, Cabrisas expects an improvement in 2017 with a two percent increase in GDP, thanks to higher growth in the sugar industry and the hotel sector.
Increases are also expected in the areas of transport, communications, agriculture, forestry, trade and manufacturing, according to the optimistic official website “Cubadebate.”
The economic data was offered today in the Cuban Parliament, which held only its second plenary session of the year, as usual behind closed doors, and without access to foreign or alternative national media.
The Venezuelan political and economic crisis affects Cuba because of the decreased sale of crude oil to the island via soft loans and also the difficulty of Caracas to contract professional services from the Cuban government for Venezuelan social programs.
The Cuban government also noted that despite the rapprochement with the Obama administration, Washington has not yet lifted the half-century plus embargo on the island.
“The immobility in the application of the commercial and financial economic blockade against Cuba by the United States included increased fines imposed on international organizations that carry out transactions with our country despite the announcements of Obama,” said Cabrisas.