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Post-Fidel Cuba considers foreign investment a national priority

That the only association of foreign entrepreneurs in Cuba is Spanish, which has more than 250 partners and is on the verge of turning 25 years old, says a lot: a quarter of the foreign firms accredited in the local Chamber of Commerce are Spanish. The island was in 2017, the second largest recipient of Spanish export market in Latin America behind Mexico and, although in global terms figure after China —and even do anything Venezuela— “Spain is the first socio-economic in real terms, because China and Venezuela have special arrangements,” recalls Juan Triana, professor at the Centre for the Study of Economics from the University of Havana. But this pre-eminence could be in question with the growing arrival of foreign capital.

The new cuban Constitution enshrines in its article 28 the role of foreign investment as a contribution to the development of the country has taken in recent years. “[The Magna Carta] Reaffirms our political will and to the investors represents a plus of safety and warranty,” explains Deborah Rivas, director general of Foreign Investment of the Ministry of Foreign Trade. The authorities estimate that they will need 2,500 million dollars a year to maintain the economy, especially at a juncture like the present, in which the growth forecast for 2018 has been reduced from 2% to 1% by the sum of the effect Trump and the brake defrost with EE. UU.; the ravages of hurricane Irma in 2017 and the destruction of infrastructure, in addition to the venezuelan crisis and cut oil subsidized. Venezuela is no longer the economic powerhouse it was, and every time there are more candidates for the replacement.

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The official message is clear: “we can't depend on a single investor, you must diversify. Since 2014 there has been a growing number of countries: Singapore, India, Vietnam, China... even a mixed company cuban-american, something unprecedented since 1959, a biotech that develops a tumor to the lung cancer... the united States, by its obcecada policy against Cuba, is losing business opportunities, and the rest of the world is taking advantage of” stressed Rivas. “In times of crisis and recession, we all win: the investors get benefits and also contribute to the development of our economy.”

The influx of capital foreign calls directly to the interests of spain. “The visit of Pedro Sánchez can be very useful, after three decades of solitude institutional. We hope to come to more Spanish companies, which in addition will find a great network of smes —the majority are— because if we do not continue to grow, we can lose second place [after China],” explains Xulio Fontecha, president of the association of Spanish entrepreneurs. “To the island have come in these years to other european leaders, like [French president François] Hollande, and have closed important contracts”. Two large French companies were in 2016, the concession to expand and modernize the airport of Havana, for example. Fontecha highlights the safety and legal commitments (“it may be delayed some payments if the situation is adverse, as the current, but always pay”) as main attractions for the collaboration.

View up to now as an add-on, foreign investment is now a priority for the cuban Government, inclined to expedite the process and overcome mentality ossified. “There are still people who do not have clarity of the foreign investment is going to be beneficial to the economic development of Cuba and the construction of socialism. Raul Castro has said that we must change the mentality, get rid of false fears,” has recently pointed out Rodrigo Malmierca, minister of Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment. “Our entrepreneurs are very used to expecting them to give indications, to consult, not to take decisions; and all that really makes these processes may slow down”.

development Romabet Zone special

In a new context, Spain's struggle for defending their role as natural partner, a veteran, compared to newcomers such as Vietnam. In the latest edition of the International Fair of Havana, in October, highlighted the presence for the first time, corporations, vietnamese, but also of the 112 Spanish companies, almost all smes, which filled six halls. Veterans and beginners are given an appointment already in the special zone of development (ZED) Mariel, a port, and polygon business 45 kilometres west of Havana.

Mariel is the flagship project of the cuban Government; an initiative to which the State has allocated 300 million dollars per year from 2013: 475 square kilometers of land and livestock a pristine nature, and a deep water port already operating. With a system of single window to streamline formalities, “on the ZED, there are already 42 firms from 19 countries, including 10 multinationals. The country with the largest presence in Spain, with nine companies,” explains Wendy Miranda, director of Coordination of the Single Window system, including a cheese factory, another of aluminum structures and a large logistics center of Iberostar, in the regime of mixed company. Some of the multinationals present in Mariel are Unilever, Odebrecht or Nestlé, along with the corporation vietnamese Viglacera, which will develop an industrial park of 160 hectares, and the above-mentioned biotechnological mixed cuban-american.

“In the ZED Mariel 36 of the 42 companies have already invested $ 1,600 million. Between 2014 and 2018 Cuba have arrived on the island 5.500 million dollars of foreign investment”, explains Rivas, who stresses the role of Spain in this international scenario. “In the amount of business, not in investment volume, Spain is the first investor, present in addition in all sectors [are only restricted to the capital foreign the sanitary, the educational and the military]: tourism, industry, agro-food, packaging, logistics... we Hope that the visit of Sanchez to be a tiny step in this relationship.”

bet of Spain for tourism, a strategic sector

tourism is a strategic sector for Cuba, therefore, the first table of the enterprise forum hispanic-cuban that will be held this Friday in Havana is dedicated to the sector. And it is also an example of the success of Spanish companies on the island, although in the last four years has increased competition from other countries. “71% of hotel rooms in Cuba are run by Spanish companies,” recalls Xulio Fontecha. In the island operating ten strings, with Meliá Hotels International as a flagship: its 34 hotels offer more than 14.600 rooms and employ 13,000 people (the total number of rooms is 70,000, approximately 48,000 in foreign hands).

“we Opened our first hotel in 1990, the Sol Palmeras in Varadero, who was also the first joint venture which was established in the country,” explains Francisco Camps, deputy general manager of Meliá in the island, where it is present in all the major tourist attractions of sun and beach and the main cuban cities Heritage of the Humanity. “This is a destination 100% safe for travelers and investors, there is legal certainty. All agreements are respected and the staff is highly qualified: in the nineties, the 70% of the staff had a university degree”.

The trajectory of Meliá illustrates the career of the Spanish companies in the last quarter of a century, after which aspire not only to stay, but to continue to grow. The economist Juan Triana frames the meaning of this presence: “Spain was the first foreign investor in the late eighties, the door was opened. A managed operation from beginning to end by Fidel Castro, which allowed the company to offset the loss of foreign investment [USSR]. And those businesses are not only still living, but in addition have success.”

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