Castro prepares Cuba for tough year despite U.S. opening

HAVANA -- President Raul Castro warned Cubans on Tuesday to prepare for tough economic conditions in 2016 despite warmer relations with the United States.

See Full Article

Castro said that while tourism is booming, low oil prices have damaged the outlook of an economy that depends on billions of dollars of subsidized oil and cash from Venezuela.

According to state-controlled media, Cuba's president told the National Assembly to expect 2 per cent growth in gross domestic product next year, half the rate his government reported in 2015. Foreign media are barred from the twice-annual meetings of the National Assembly.

Despite the government's assertion that the GDP grew 4 per cent this year, there is widespread dissatisfaction among Cubans over the widening gap between low salaries and the high price of essential goods, most particularly food.

Castro appeared to be preparing Cubans for harder times ahead, saying that "we must cut any unnecessary spending and make use of the resources that we have with more rationality and with the goal of developing the country."

He dedicated a lengthy section of his speech to Venezuela, where the opposition to Cuba-backed socialist President Nicolas Maduro recently took control of parliament amid widespread shortages and spiraling violence.

Cheap oil "has affected our relationship of mutual aid with various countries, particularly the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, the target of an economic war aimed at undermining popular support for its revolution," Castro said.

He urged Cubans to avoid what he labeled "defeatism" in the face of a drop in Venezuelan aid, saying "the history of our revolution is full of glorious pages despite difficulties, risks and threats."

More than 3 million tourists visited in 2015, an increase of nearly 20 per cent in the wake of President Barack Obama's declaration of detente with Cuba. The surge in visitors pumped cash into the state-controlled tourist economy and the growing sector of private bed-and-breakfasts and restaurants, but it also drove up household inflation. In the absence of a wholesale market for private businesses in Cuba's state-controlled economy, entrepreneurs have been forced to compete with cash-strapped consumers, driving up prices by driving off with cartloads of basic foodstuffs like eggs and flour.

Salaries for state employees, who make up most of Cuba's workforce, remain stuck at around $25 a month, leaving hundreds of thousands of Cubans struggling to feed their families.

Falling oil prices have lowered the cost of the imported goods that Cuba depends on but have hurt the island's economic relationship with Venezuela in 2015, Castro said. Cuba has sent thousands of doctors to Venezuela in recent years in exchange for oil and cash payments at highly beneficial rates.

Cuba does not regularly release reliable economic statistics that conform to international standard but its top earners of hard currency in recent years have been tourism, nickel mining and the export of government-employed professionals like the doctors sent to Venezuela and other allied countries. Castro said lower nickel prices also hurt the country's 2016 outlook.



Advertisements

Latest Economic News

  • Poker tables keep decreasing on Las Vegas casino floors

    Economic CTV News
    LAS VEGAS -- When the Monte Carlo closes its eight-table poker room in about a month as part of a $450 million overhaul, the Las Vegas Strip will have lost nearly a quarter of the tables it had a decade ago. Source
  • Las Vegas casinos continue to close poker rooms

    Economic CTV News
    LAS VEGAS -- When the Monte Carlo casino closes its eight-table poker room in about a month as part of a $450 million overhaul, the Las Vegas Strip will be down nearly a quarter of the tables it had a decade ago. Source
  • Google's YouTube loses more advertisers over offensive videos

    Economic CBC News
    An advertising boycott of YouTube is broadening, a sign that big-spending companies doubt Google's ability to prevent marketing campaigns from appearing alongside repugnant videos. PepsiCo, Walmart Stores and Starbucks on Friday confirmed that they have also suspended their advertising on YouTube after the Wall Street Journal found Google's automated programs placed their brands on five videos containing racist content. Source
  • National contest tries to convince students that lucrative sales jobs are 'sexy'

    Economic CBC News
    Sonya Meloff wants everyone to know that a career in sales is sexy. Not sleazy. "I think that sales is a really sexy job," says the founder of the Toronto's Sales Talent Agency. "You get to be at the forefront of representing a company, you're the one that gets to talk to the customers. Source
  • Report examines grim Bangladesh leather trade, links to West

    Economic CTV News
    DHAKA, Bangladesh -- Hazardous, heavily polluting tanneries, with workers as young as 14, supplied leather to companies that make shoes and handbags for a host of Western brands, a non-profit group that investigates supply chains says. Source
  • Notley: Keystone XL doesn't lessen need for Energy East, Trans Mountain

    Economic CTV News
    CALGARY -- Alberta Premier Rachel Notley says U.S. approval of the Keystone XL pipeline does not lessen the need for two other controversial proposals within Canada's borders. U.S. President Donald Trump announced the green light for the line more than eight years after Calgary-based TransCanada first applied for a cross-border permit. Source
  • Trump's Keystone XL decision sets up new fight in Nebraska

    Economic CTV News
    LINCOLN, Neb. -- U.S. President Donald Trump may have approved a federal permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, but the fight is far from over in Nebraska, the one state in its path that has yet to approve the project. Source
  • Toronto stock index extends rally, Wall Street mixed after 'Trumpcare' pulled

    Economic CBC News
    Specialist Stephen Naughton, left, and trader Michael Milano work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on Wednesday. North American equity markets finished mixed on Friday after U.S. Republicans withdrew their bill to overhaul Obamacare. Source
  • PepsiCo, Wal-Mart, Starbucks join YouTube ad boycott in U.S.

    Economic CTV News
    SAN FRANCISCO -- An advertising boycott of YouTube is broadening in a sign that big companies doubt Google's ability to prevent marketing campaigns from appearing alongside repugnant videos. PepsiCo, Wal-Mart Stores and Starbucks on Friday confirmed that they have also suspended their advertising on YouTube after the Wall Street Journal found Google's automated programs placed their brands on five videos containing racist content. Source
  • Debate renewed over economic benefits of Keystone XL pipeline

    Economic CTV News
    U.S. President Donald Trump is calling his administration's approval of the Keystone XL pipeline a new era for American energy policy. As expected, the State Department reversed a decision by the Obama administration and favoured energy development over environmentalists' objections to the pipeline, which will carry thick Canadian crude oil to Nebraska, where it can flow on to refineries along the Gulf Coast. Source