Cuba’s Economy and Planning Minister Ricardo Cabrisas has announced that Cuba will shortly present its updated portfolio of business opportunities for foreign investment, encompassing more than 450 projects.
Carbisas, who is also Vice President of the Cuban Council of Ministers, said the portfolio would be launched at the upcoming Havana International Fair (Feria Internacional de La Habana, FIHAV), considered one of the foremost trade fairs in Latin America and the Caribbean.
The current portfolio, presented at FIHAV 2016, includes 395 projects with a total worth of over 9.5 billion dollars with an overarching aim of fostering key sectors such as agriculture and food production, industry, tourism, mining, biotech, oil and gas, and renewable energy.
Cabrisas said at the most recent parliamentary session that in terms of foreign direct investment the government approved eleven new projects in the first half of 2017 as well as additional investment for two existing enterprises. Five of these are in the Mariel Special Development Zone (Zona Especial de Desarrollo Mariel, ZEDM) with total investment exceeding 346 million dollars.
There are now twenty four projects authorized in the zone. ZEDM boasts a modern container terminal designed and equipped to receive Neo Panamax ships and it will be managed by Singaporean group PSA International, world leader in its field.
Spanish group Tot Color, which specializes in car paint production, is among the five new enterprises along with a mixed Cubanforeign collaboration with the Iberostar chain that will offer specialist logistical support to the tourist industry.
Portuguese design, engineering and construction company Engimov is also among the new additions to the roster, explained Oscar Pérez, Director of Business Evaluation at ZEDM, in a press statement.
He said the remaining two, Brasilian firm Fidas and Autocentro of Panama, are logistics enterprises. Autocentro will be managing a heavy machinery park with Kamaz equipment acquired by Cuba from Russia. Pérez explained that over the past three years, the Cuban state has invested an average of 300 million dollars per year on the development of infrastructures at Mariel including primary, secondary and tertiary roads, street lighting, new and renewed railways, information and communications infrastructures and aqueducts and waste water systems.
To date the majority of its users are foreign companies but ZEDM is also keen for Cuban companies to invest both independently and in conjunction with foreign firms, as the general director of the trade zone Ana Teresa Igarza pointed out at a recent international trade convention in Havana.
Of the zone’s twenty four approved users, fourteen are one hundred per cent foreign capital investments, five correspond to mixed Cuban-foreign firms and four are exclusively Cuban businesses, she explained.
She added that in its three and a half years of operation ZEDM has shown moderate but sustained advances towards its objective of incentivizing integral projects that allow import substitution, foster exports of high added value national products and generate employment, in line with international markets and the national economy. “One of our most fundamental achievements to date has been to get the Special Zone on the radar of regional and international markets,” said Igarza.
José Daniel Alonso, director general of Cuba’s Tourism Ministry (Mintur), told journalists that one of the most attractive sectors for foreign investors is without doubt tourism. Current investment possibilities include establishing mixed Cuban-foreign enterprises in the construction and management of hotels and residential developments.
Alonso pointed out that currently almost eighty-six percent of four and five star hotels in the Cuban archipelago are under administrative contracts with foreign firms.
The majority are Spanish firms, but China, Canada, France, the UK, Qatar, the Netherlands, Portugal and the USA are also represented, and negotiations are underway with Italian, German, Vietnamese, Swiss, Russian and Singaporean firms as well as representatives from Dubai.
Foreign direct investment in Cuba is something the country wants to encourage because, in the words of the Cuban Minister of Exterior Commerce and Foreign Investment Rodrigo Malmerca, “we are convinced of its importance for national development.” Speaking at FIHAV 2016 he added that Cuba is not giving up on its aim to attract around two billion dollars a year via foreign direct investment.