Published on Friday, June 29, 2007
By Marc Frank
HAVANA, Cuba (Reuters): Cuba is pouring significant amounts of
resources into passenger and freight transportation, but improvements
will take time after years of neglect, the country's transportation
minister said on Thursday.
"Rehabilitating the transportation system has run up against the
significant deterioration it suffered ... meaning that to make the best
use of resources in the sector requires a gigantic organizational
effort," Minister Jorge Luis Sierra told a closed-door session of
parliament, state-run media reported.
After spending more than $2 billion since 2005 to modernize Cuba's
energy grid, transportation has been targeted for a similar overhaul,
government officials have told foreign officials.
Cuba recently formed joint ventures with Venezuela to improve the
country's shaky rails and potholed roads, and signed contracts to
purchase more than 6,000 buses from China, 100 railway cars for cargo
from Iran and thousands of motors for antiquated Soviet-era trucks.
"The purchase of equipment guarantees a progressive improvement in
transportation service, but still it will not reach 1986-1990 levels,"
The import-dependent Caribbean island's economy has improved after a
decade-long crisis that followed the demise of its benefactor, the
Soviet Union, and led to the near-collapse of infrastructure.
Public transportation remains in crisis at just 21 percent of its 1989
level, while freight transportation stands at around 33 percent,
according to government statistics.
Few Cubans own automobiles so they must wait hours for buses or
hitch-hike to get around. Many use bicycles and horse-drawn carts.