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