Cuba says GDP rose 4.3 percent in 2008
The Associated Press
HAVANA — Cuba says its economy will grow 4.3 percent for the year,
about half the original forecast, due to damage from hurricanes and the
rising cost of food imports.
The report by Economy Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez, during a meeting
with lawmakers preparing for a weekend session of Cuba's parliament, was
reported by government news media. He had projected 8 percent growth for
2008 last December.
The state news agency Prensa Latina reported that Rodriguez said
"structural changes" and investment in production are needed to revive
the island's battered agricultural and industrial sectors.
"We can't keep consuming based on finances we haven't earned," Rodriguez
was quoted as saying.
He said Cuba "needs to increase its efficiency and productivity to
create wealth before we spend it."
Hurricanes Gustav, Ike and Paloma caused at least $10 billion in
combined damaged this year, crippling infrastructure and food production
and leaving tens of thousands of Cubans homeless. The government also
has stressed the need to slash dependance on imported food, which cost
the island about $2 billion in 2008.
Cuba uses an unusual method of calculating gross domestic product,
including state spending on free health care and education, as well as
subsides for transportation and food rations. Critics say that inflates
the figures that officially showed growth of 7.5 percent last year and
12.5 percent in 2006.
The island's parliament meets only two weekends a year and its members
usually unanimously approve measures put forward by the Communist Party
and other top officials.