MIAMI, United States. – Cuba’s minister of Economy and planning, Alejandro Gil Fernandez, acknowledged in a press conference this Thursday that his government expected to welcome 2.2 million tourists during 2021. This will mean a 6% growth in the economy (after its 11% contraction in 2020).
However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, during the first quarter of 202, only 48,163 visitors arrived in Cuba, a figure that casts doubt on the Cuban regime’s expectations.
The number of visitors that came to Cuba during the first quarter of 2021 was very low. Until March, only 48,163 visitors arrived, i.e., 4.9% of the number of vacationers for the same period 2020. The pandemic prevented tourism’s recovery during the first quarter,” economist Pedro Monreal noted on Twitter.
This expert economist also noted that “in 2018 and 2019, the last ‘normal’ years, the period spanning January and February was the best quarter regarding the number of visitors, which means that for 2021 we will not see the best high-season performance in tourism, even if we were to assume that some recovery occurs in the second quarter.”
In spite of this unfavorable outlook, Gil Fernandez did not specify how his government intended to reach the projected 2.2 million international visitors by the end of 2021.
On another note, according to a report by the Spanish news agency EFE, Gil Fernandez gave an opinion about the Ordering Task (Tarea Ordenamiento).
He stated that some 508 Cuban state companies had registered loses since the currency exchange and unification policies came into effect at the beginning of the year, thus ending the use of the convertible currency, the CUC.
The minister indicated that the Ordering Task revealed the real condition of many state companies, which were already operating in the red and represented losses to the State.
In contrast -he added- another 1,304 state companies have made gains since the start of the economy’s reform, which is aimed at strengthening the companies of the socialist state, although it still maintains “the will to expand” the private sector.
Gil Fernandez, who is also Cuba’s vice president, defended the measures that came into effect in January, including reform of salary and price increases as well as the withdrawal of subsidies to the population, all of which has caused a skyrocketing inflation.
He added: “It was unavoidable in aspects of the economy that were backwards, like the incentive to export; also, economic and commercial policies had to be aligned in order to reduce imports.”
He made reference, also, to the discontent that having to purchase food and staple products at hard-currency stores has generated among the people. Cubans’ salaries are paid in Cuban pesos, not hard-currency.
Add to this the fact that a lack of state liquidity has caused banks and exchange offices (Cadecas) to not sell hard currency to the population, while in the informal market, the US dollar trades at 50 Cuban pesos, twice the official exchange rate of 24 pesos per one US dollar.
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