Informacion economica sobre Cuba

SA opposition closes ranks on Cuban aid

Opposition parties are united in opposing a R350m economic assistance

package to Cuba

LINDA ENSOR

Published: 2012/05/10 07:20:11 AM

Opposition parties were united yesterday in opposing a R350m economic

assistance package to Cuba which only scraped through the approval

process of a parliamentary committee because the chairwoman used her

casting vote to seal it.

The bilateral agreement — which has to be ratified by Parliament — was

reached when President Jacob Zuma visited Cuba in December 2010 and was

concluded in November last year. It comprises a credit facility of R210m

for buying South African goods, a solidarity grant of R100m and a R40m

grant for seeds.

Equal votes were cast by members of the trade and industry committee for

and against the package, which was only finally approved when chairwoman

Joan Fubbs used her casting vote for the first time to support it.

Department of Trade and Industry deputy-director general of

international trade and economic development Xavier Carim justified the

agreement on the grounds that SA and Cuba had strong political and

diplomatic relations. Furthermore, he said, it would strengthen trade

relations and help Cuba deal with the devastation caused by a hurricane.

He said only R35m of the seed grant would actually leave SA, the rest

being used to pay exporters for local products bought on behalf of Cuba.

African National Congress (ANC) whip Bheki Radebe supported the

agreement, highlighting the critical role Cuba had played in the

liberation of SA and in the fight against colonialism in Africa. Cuban

experts and doctors had also provided assistance to SA after 1994, he said.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) objected on the grounds that the government

was pursuing the ANC's interests, not the nation's.

"The DA maintains that SA should not be bailing Cuba out. Government

should not use public money to maintain the political friendship between

the ANC and the Castro regime in Cuba," DA MP Geordin Hill-Lewis said.

"It is also doubtful that Cuba will repay the loan portion of the

agreement, considering that government had to write off R1,1bn of bad

Cuban debt last year."

The bilateral trade between SA and Cuba was too small to justify using

funds that SA needed.

Freedom Front Plus MP Anton Alberts criticised the agreement for not

including conditions on human rights and democratic transformation in Cuba.

Inkatha Freedom Front MP Mario Oriani -Ambrosini also criticised the

lack of human rights considerations.

ensorl@bdfm.co.za

http://www.businessday.co.za/Articles/Content.aspx?id=171376


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