Saturday, 28 August 2010
Cuba issued a pair of surprising free-market decrees, allowing foreign
investors to lease government land for up to 99 years - potentially
touching off a golf-course building boom - and loosening state controls
on commerce to let islanders grow and sell their own fruit and vegetables.
The moves, published into law in the Official Gazette on Thursday and
Friday and effective immediately, are significant steps as President
Raul Castro promises to scale back the communist state's control of the
economy while attempting to generate new revenue for a government short
"These are part of the opening that the government wants to make given
the country's situation," said Oscar Espinosa Chepe, a state-trained
economist who is now an anti-communist dissident.
Cuba said it was modifying its property laws "with the aim of amplifying
and facilitating" foreign investment in tourism, and that doing so would
provide "better security and guarantees to the foreign investor".
A small army of investors in Canada, Europe and Asia have been waiting
to crack the market for long-term tourism in Cuba, built on drawing
well-heeled visitors who could live part-time on the island instead of
just hitting the beach for a few days.
It may also help the country embrace golf tourism.
Investment firms have for decades proposed building lavish 18-hole
courses ringed by luxury housing under long-term government leases.
Cuba currently has just two golf courses nationwide, but the Tourism
Ministry said it wants to build at least 10 more.