Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Cuba Economy Grew 12.5 Percent in First Half, Minister Says


By Guillermo Parra-Bernal

Sept. 12 (Bloomberg) -- Cuba's economy grew a faster-than- expected 12.5 percent in the first half of 2006, boosted by a surge in the construction, transport and services industries, Economy and Planning Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez said.

This year the economy is likely to attain a second straight year of growth exceeding 10 percent as local investment and proceeds from exports such as nickel and sugar cane boost government coffers and workers' incomes, Rodriguez said at a press conference in Havana.

``We are moving forward in our policies of favoring workers' income, keeping unemployment at low levels and investing in our future ability to generate electricity at lower costs,'' Rodriguez says.

Cuba plans one day to merge its local currency and its convertible currencies into one, as China did, Rodriguez said. He declined to give a timetable.

The economy, ruled by communist leader Fidel Castro since 1959, is benefiting from inflows of investment from countries such as France, Spain and Canada. It is too early to asses the effect of increased investment from Venezuela, which is helping the country to renew its oil refining and electricity generating capacity, Rodriguez said.

Cuba is considering expanding output of ethanol fuel in a joint venture with a Spanish company, as international prices for the fuel are ``attractive,'' he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Guillermo Parra-Bernal in Havana, Cuba at the 14th Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement or at gparra@bloomberg.net

Last Updated: September 12, 2006 16:26 EDT

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