HAVANA Dec 22 Cuba's economy will grow more
than 4 percent in 2009 as new accords with foreign countries
and economic reforms compensate for negative international
factors, the country's economy minister said.
Economy and Planning Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez said
hurricanes and other factors would restrict 2008 economic
growth to 4 percent, compared with the planned 7 percent.
"We are going to grow more next year than this year,"
Rodriguez said in an interview broadcast on Monday by state-run
"The country has important cooperation agreements. Those
signed with Venezuela, with Brazil and with Russia. Relations
with China will continue and broaden," he said.
Communist Cuba's economy, which grew 7.3 percent in 2007,
is more than 90 percent controlled by the state.
Cuba and Venezuela this month announced more than 150
cooperation agreements for 2009 valued at $2 billion, including
continued expansion of a joint venture oil refinery and
petrochemical complex in central Cienfuegos province.
The presidents of Brazil, Russia and China all visited Cuba
over the past few months and said economic relations would
broaden in 2009. They gave no details.
Cuba has restructured debt and delayed payments to various
foreign companies in recent months, its coffers hit by three
powerful hurricanes, falling nickel prices and the
international financial crisis.
Rodriguez said growth would also get a boost from reforms
undertaken in agriculture and wage policy by President Raul
Castro since taking over in February for his ailing brother,
Raul Castro has decentralized agriculture, increased prices
paid for agricultural products and begun distributing unused
state lands with accompanying resources to private farmers,
cooperatives and some state-run companies in an effort to
reduce soaring food imports.
"Without a doubt the agriculture policy and most
importantly substituting food imports will impact the economy,"
He said the new wage policy that eliminated caps on
earnings and tied wages more closely to individual performance
would contribute to growth. Additional wage reforms are
planned, the minister said without giving details.
(Reporting by Marc Frank; editing by Tom Brown and Mohammad