Cuban economy grew 7.7% in H1

Ulhas Joglekar ulhasj at
Fri Aug 4 21:16:29 MDT 2000

5 August 2000

Vice-president says Cuban economy grew 7.7% in H1
HAVANA: Cuba's arduous recovery from a financial crisis set off by the
collapse of the Soviet Union a decade ago continued during the first half of
2000 with the economy growing 7.7 percent, the government said.
Vice President Carlos Lage credited the nation's moves toward economic
independence and diversification for the recovery in an unusual hour-long
interview broadcast on state television late Thursday.
"Economic efficiency is better," said Lage, who was the architect of modest
reforms in the early 1990s that allowed Cubans for the first time under the
communist government to possess U.S. dollars. They also permitted a limited
number of Cubans to run their own small businesses.
"The structure of the country has changed," added Lage, who is a vice
president of the government's powerful Council of State, overseen by
President Fidel Castro.
Just as important as the economic indicators are statistics that show that
the growth is improving Cubans' lives, Lage said.
During the past five years, he said, Cuba has increased its production of
petroleum for domestic consumption by 32 percent and its production of
vegetables and root crops by 25 percent. Before the collapse of the Eastern
Bloc, Cuba had been dependent on its socialist allies for petroleum and much
of its food.
Basic services across the island also improved from 1995 to 2000, Lage said.
About a million more people now receive water via new aqueducts in rural
areas, and gas and telephone service has been expanded.
At the same time, he said, blackouts caused by fuel shortages have
diminished significantly while food distribution has improved.
Among the modest economic reforms approved in the early 1990s was the
creation of farmers' markets, allowing Cubans to add fresh fruits and
vegetables to their diets of government-rationed rice, dried legumes, eggs
and small amounts of pork and other meat. Lage said the prices at the
farmers' markets fell over five years, but allowed that fresh produce still
remains expensive for many Cubans. While Cuba continues to suffer from a
severe housing shortage, about 40,000 to 50,000 new homes have been
constructed annually during the ongoing economic recovery, said Lage.
In employment, the vice president said, about 60 percent of the nation's
government workers now earn wages linked to productivity. The concept was
once unheard of in this socialist country, where the late revolutionary hero
Ernesto "Che" Guevara had encouraged "moral incentives" for workers. (AP)
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