Cuba News Roundup
We here at The Havana Note like to read the news and then give our take on it. But sometimes, we're just going to bring you the news....
Over the last two years, Raul Castro's government has instituted reforms in the agriculture sector to help cut Cuba's costly food import bill. When the reforms began, half of the island's arable land lay idle, while the state imported two-thirds of the country's food consumption. Reuters reports on the ways that reforms seem to be paying off, with some 70,000 members of agricultural cooperatives acquiring leases on vacant land parcels. Farmers are also receiving vouchers they can redeem in hard-currency stores for fencing, feed and equipment. But much remains to be done to maximize production and distribution, including improving transportation and storage, and addressing a lack of fertilizer and pesticide.
Less progress on another crucial front: housing. AP reports that Cuba has fallen far short of its already scaled back goal for new housing construction - reaching just 60% of its goal for 2009, or 20,000 housing units. Four years ago, Fidel Castro spotlighted the need for more housing, and set the target at 100,000 homes for the year. And that was before 100,000 homes were damaged or destroyed in the unlucky 2008 hurricane season, when four - count them - hurricanes plowed through the island.
On Wednesday, Cuban officials in Havana "meeting" via videoconference in Washington, DC with travel industry representatives estimated that the U.S. economy is losing $1.1 billion in business associated with travel to Cuba. Officials said U.S. airlines are losing $600 million in revenue, which travel and booking agents are losing $300 million annually, and other service industries, such as food and beverages, lose $200 million annually in sales they could be making if Congress lifts the U.S. ban on travel to Cuba. The Business week story is here.