FILE PHOTO: A street seller pushes a cart with vegetables as people wait to buy food amid concerns about the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in downtown Havana, Cuba, April 6, 2020. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini
December 8, 2020
HAVANA (Reuters) – Cash-strapped Cuba said on Tuesday it had attracted $1.9 billion worth of foreign investment over the past year despite tighter U.S. sanctions and said it continued to reduce internal obstacles to investors.
Trade Minister Rodrigo Malmierca told an online news conference the 34 investments approved since October last year were no small achievement given the “economic war” being waged by the administration of outgoing U.S. President Donald Trump against the Communist-run island.
These have included sanctions on Venezuelan shipments of oil to Cuba, ever tighter restrictions on U.S. travel to the Caribbean island and limits on remittances, one of its top sources of hard currency. Washington’s tougher stance has also led international banks to avoid transactions involving Cuba.
On top of that, the coronavirus pandemic this year disrupted tourism and prompted Cuba to implement a partial lockdown.
“All this has created a lot of restrictions in hard currency supply, delays in payments to providers and companies that have relations with Cuba,” Malmierca said during the virtual event this year replacing the country’s annual trade and investment fair due to the pandemic.
The amount of foreign capital attracted was slightly more than last year’s $1.7 billion, Malmierca said, calling it a feat given the circumstances but still below Cuba’s needs. The country aims to attract $2 billion to $2.5 billion annually to update its inefficient state-run economy.
Malmierca said Cuba further reduced obstacles to foreign investment. Now, for example, only projects regarding extraction of natural resources and public services would require a majority Cuban stakeholder.
Other upcoming market-oriented reforms Cuba has announced this year should facilitate investment too, he said, citing the imminent elimination of the country’s dual currency system that has created distortions in the economy.
Malmierca said this year’s portfolio of ready-made investment opportunities included smaller projects that could interest small and medium-sized enterprises and Cubans living abroad, as well as larger ones.
(Reporting by Sarah Marsh; Editing by David Gregorio)