Nearshore Americas

Cuba Fires Economy Minister Marino Murillo as Venezuela Crisis Bites

Cuba has fired its finance minister, Marino Murillo, as economic turmoil in Venezuela begins to bite the communist island. Murillo was forced out just days after revealing the government’s decision to cut electricity and fuel consumption on the back of dwindling energy supply from Venezuela.
For over a decade, Venezuela has supplied an estimated 100,000 barrels of oil a day to Cuba largely in exchange for the island’s healthcare service. With the socialist South American country slipping deeper into recession, the oil supply to Cuba has been cut by 20%. The temporary closure of a Cuban-Venezuelan oil refinery in Cienfuegos made matters worse.
Murillo has been replaced with Ricardo Cabrisas Ruiz, a veteran Cuban politician who was previously overseeing the country’s recent debt restructuring. But Ruiz might find it hard to reverse the country’s economic fortunes because the nickel, refined oil products and sugar that Cuba exports are trading at record low prices.
Cuba’s economy grew just 1% in the first half of this year after expanding 4% in 2015, according to the government. Days before he resigned, Murillo said: “We planned to import US$14.416 billion to support 2% growth this year, but with the adjustments we will spend US$11.973 billion.”
Cuba is suddenly finding its exchequer running short of cash. According to Murillo’s statement, the communist island is putting on hold about 17% of planned investments for the year.
Reports say Cubans are also bracing for lengthy power black-outs in the weeks to come. But there is still hope. As the island’s relations with the US are improving, there is a likelihood of a huge number of tourists arriving in Cuba. Tourists come with dollar currency, which Cuba can use to import the goods it wants.

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Narayan Ammachchi

News Editor for Nearshore Americas, Narayan Ammachchi is a career journalist with a decade of experience in politics and international business. He works out of his base in the Indian Silicon City of Bangalore.

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