Nov 1, 2008
HAVANA — Cuba's says its economy grew by six per cent in the first half
of 2008, but won't maintain that pace because of damage caused by
Hurricanes Gustav and Ike.
Economy Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez says the rise in gross domestic
product in the year's final six months won't match the results of the
first, which finished with six per cent growth.
Hurricane Gustav hit western Cuba on Aug. 30 and Ike slammed into the
country's eastern flank barely a week later, then raked most of the island.
The government says the storms caused the greatest storm damage in
Cuba's hurricane-battered history, killing seven people, damaging nearly
450,000 homes and crippling food production and infrastructure.
Rodriquez says the principal challenge is the reconstruction of the
country, whose losses were initially calculated at $5 billion but which
today are seen as far higher.
He offered no new estimates.
However, Civil Defence Chief Ramon Pardo Guerra told visiting Brazilian
President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva that collective damage from the
storms had reached nearly 8.7 billion convertible pesos, or about $9.4
That makes them nearly twice as costly as officials originally believed.
Cuba's measurement of GDP includes spending on free health care,
education through college and monthly food rations provided by the
communist system - an uncommon methodology that critics say inflates
Officially, the economy expanded by 7.5 per cent last year and posted a
12.5 per cent growth rate in 2006.
Rodriguez projected last year that the economy would grow eight per cent
in 2008, but he and other officials began warning in July, even before
the hurricanes hit, that rising global food and oil prices would cause
"inevitable adjustments and restrictions."