Cuba: An Economic Primer [June 20, 2002]   [open pdf - 415KB]

"This report provides an overview of the Cuban economy. Recent congressional interest in Cuba has centered on the partial lifting of trade sanctions on agricultural products and medicine. The 107th Congress may consider further easing of sanctions or other alterations to the trade embargo in effect since 1962. The paper first presents a brief historical overview of the Cuban economy. This history is characterized by dependence on major powers: first Spain, then the United States, and then the Soviet Union. The report then charts the different, and often conflicting, economic policy courses that Fidel Castro has pursued since his rise to power in 1959. The loss of Soviet support led the Cuban economy to the brink of collapse in the period from 1989-93. The economy contracted by about one-third and there were widespread shortages of food, medicine, and electricity. In desperate straits, Castro turned to market-based reforms to resuscitate the economy. Since 1994, economic growth has been generally positive, yet dependent on the world price of its principal exports, sugar and nickel, and on the price of oil, its principal import. […] Sugar is the major agricultural crop, though production has been hurt by underinvestment. Tobacco, coffee and citrus are also grown and exported. Cuba is endowed with the world's third largest reserves of nickel and cobalt. Cuba's manufacturing base was largely built during the Soviet era and is perceived to be obsolete. The bright spot for the Cuban economy is tourism. The inherent tension between the regime's commitment to Marxism and economic liberalization may prove an obstacle to further market-based, reforms."

Report Number:
CRS Report for Congress, RL30837
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