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LOW ECONOMIC GROWTH.

The Cuban Government sees economic growth at less than 1% in 2003, below the 2% to 3% forecast earlier, economists and diplomats said, reports Reuters (Nov. 11, 2002):

That forecast comes as Cuba's recovery from a 1990s economic crisis, tied to the collapse of its benefactor, the Soviet Union, ground to a halt this year. President Fidel Castro, in a speech to businessmen attending an international trade show, said 2002 was a "terrible year." He blamed a decline in tourism; low prices for main exports sugar, nickel, cigars and shellfish; higher oil prices; three hurricanes and the U.S. trade embargo against his country;

Since 1994, Cuba has been recovering from a crippling 35% decline in gross domestic product from 1989 to 1993 after the collapse of European Communism. The Soviet Union was the Caribbean island's main trading partner and provided billions of dollars in soft credits and aid. Growth averaged 4.1% from 1987 to 2001, peaking at more than 6% in 1999 and 2000, before slowing to 3% last year, based on 1977 prices;

Local analysts said the Sept. 11 attacks on the U.S. knocked the wind out of a tourism boom leading Cuba's economic rebound, with arrivals down 11% through September, and only a gradual recovery expected in the coming months. Cuba's sugar industry, the country's largest, is downsizing by 50% and the reduction is forecast to reduce raw sugar output in 2003, as well as demand for the metals, machine building and other industries that supply it. Tourism accounts for close to 50% of Cuba's foreign exchange earnings and oil for 20% of the country's imports. An Iraq war would reduce the former and increase prices for the latter, the analysts said, possibly dragging the economy into recession.

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Title Annotation:Cuban economic forecasts
Publication:Caribbean Update
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:5CUBA
Date:Dec 1, 2002
Words:295
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