Reforms aimed at strengthening Cuba’s fragile economy will be key as President Raul Castro tries to ensure survival of Cuban communism once the current, aging leadership is gone.
The cash-strapped government is looking to reduce its role while maintaining control of an economy that will have a bigger private sector and less state spending. It could get long-term help if offshore oil exploration due to begin in 2011 is successful.
Relations with longtime ideological foe the United States continue to be rocky, with little prospect for near-term change.
Cuba, drained of cash by hurricanes in 2008 and by the global financial crisis, defaulted on payments and froze foreign business bank accounts two years ago.
The situation has eased but is not yet resolved.
Castro has cut spending, slashed imports by a third and sought more state income to avert future cash shortages.
Cuba is hoping to collect taxes from the newly self-employed and boost revenues from old standbys like nickel exports and tourism, two of its top hard currency earners.
The government has said it will allow construction of golf course developments, with the goal of attracting wealthier tourists.
Expectations the nearby United States would ease its ban on most American travel to Cuba, part of its 48-year-old trade embargo against the island, have faded after Republican Party gains in the U.S. Congress in November elections.
Thanks to us pesky hard-liners, I don’t think we’ll be bailing out these bastards any time soon.