Cuban economist describes current financial situation as tense

Cuban president makes reference to 'internal blockade'

HAVANA – At a forum with a British delegation Tuesday, Cuban officials described the island’s economy as a small, underdeveloped but open economy with scarce natural resources and a high dependence on imports. 

The description was part of an overall summary of the current economic situation and the challenges the island faces.

“Today there is an tense financial situation,” said Alfredo Garcia Jimenez, director at the National Institute of Economic Investigations. 

He mentioned lagging internal production and cited sugar as an example. In 2018, the Cuban economy only grew 1.2 percent. Foreign investment was described as low. 

A presentation slide shows Cuba's 2019 budgeted expenses. The top three expenses remain health, education and defense.
A presentation slide shows Cuba's 2019 budgeted expenses. The top three expenses remain health, education and defense.

U.S. sanctions are blamed for lower tourism, and Venezuela’s situation has affected the amount of oil Cuba receives, he said. 

Recent climatological incidents like a recent tornado have not helped, Garcia Jimenez added. 

An aging population was another issue Garcia Jimenez mentioned. 

More than 18 perfect of Cuba’s population is at least 60 years old and it directly affects the labor force, he added. 

It is necessary to create conditions so people young people can procreate, he said. 

Cuba is not a member of the International Monetary Fund or the World Bank, so having access to credit is not possible and another obstacle in the island’s development. 

Garcia Jimenez noted the gradual economic and social transformation process Cuba is undergoing, saying they see that as a positive. The single-party communist government continues to expand its economic ties with Russia and China. 

The Cuban government is also focusing on maximizing its national industry potential, thereby reducing imports. 

Cuban officials remain adamant the U.S. embargo on Cuba remains the major obstacle in its economy’s development. 

But Friday, likely for the first time while addressing the Eighth Congress of the National Association of Economists and Accountants, Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel said, “The same way we face a genocidal blockade (U.S. embargo), we must strive to identify and untangle obstacles some call internal blockade.”

Within Cuban society, the “internal blockage” is a constant argument Cubans make to describe the challenges they face within their own government, which they argue keeps them from prospering financially. 

In the same speech, Diaz-Canel alluded to a new plan where state workers will be expected to play a larger role in their company's economic development, a sign some say points to a decentralization of the Cuban economy. 

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