LATEST CUBA NEWS: BUSINESS, TOURISM, INFRASTRUCTURE AND FINANCE:
Cuba and United States agree to resume commercial flights
In another step forward, it was reported on 17 December 2015 that scheduled commercial airline service between the U.S. and Cuba will resume, permitting 110 round-trip flights a day (twenty to Havana and ten to each Cuba’s other nine airports). With this new agreement, U.S. airlines will be able to sell tickets to Cuba on their websites; however, they have to first apply for permission from U.S. regulators for specific routes. There will likely be a 60 to 90 day review process of proposed routes, meaning scheduled flights will not begin for the first few months of 2016. The date of the final signing of the agreement has not been set, but there are no expected obstacles. As a consequence of this development, charter flight companies and travel agencies will see a fall in income.
Cuban agriculture minister predicts 35 percent reduction in rice harvests
The Cuban Agriculture Ministry (Minag) announced on 14 December 2015 a 35 percent decrease in rice production for 2015 due to the severe drought, which has affected 70 percent of country and is the worst one in 115 years. Minag Grupo Agroindustrial de Granos General Director Lázaro Díaz said 2015 has been very tough for rice farmers, who planned on delivering more rice to the national economy to substitute for imports. Minag projects rice production in 2016 will be around 538,000 tons, which is only 60 percent of the amount required to meet national consumption.
Costa Rican President Solís visits Cuba to promote trade relations
During a business forum in Havana, Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solís confirmed on 14 December 2015 he wants to foster commercial relations between Cuba and Costa Rica, especially in the areas of tourism, construction, and agriculture. Solís noted Costa Rica is already an important partner for Cuba in Central America; trade has reached 7 percent per year and Solís hopes to increase that amount. Cuba is the fourth destination for Costa Rican exports; in 2014 exports were worth US$38.5 million.
Cuba and Paris Club agree on debt relief
Cuba and the Paris Club reached an agreement on 13 December 2015, whereby Cuba is relieved from US$8.5 billion in debt and will only have to pay US$2.6 billion over eighteen years. Since France was Cuba’s principal creditor, the French Finance Minister Michel Sapin said out a US$470 million debt, Cuba will pay US$240 million to France and invest the rest development projects on the island. Sapin said the agreement opens a new era of relations between Cuba and the international finance community. Most creditors demonstrated flexibility and were interested in negotiating with Cuba after the thaw in relations with the United States.