Cuba amends law to attract more foreign investment

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The Cuban government Thursday announced amendments to its foreign investment law in a bid to make it easier for foreign companies to conduct business on the Caribbean island.

The new law, which will take effect on Sept. 1, simplifies procedures to approve a project, Deborah Rivas, a senior official of the Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment Ministry, told reporters at a press conference.

“It is another step in speeding up the negotiation process to increase the entry of foreign investment to Cuba,” Rivas said.

The government will have to do more to attract capital if the amendments alone don’t spur investment, Rivas said.

Cuba passed a foreign investment law in 2014 which has brought capital to tourism, mining and other industries. However, investors have complained about the slow pace of project evaluation and approval.

In December 2016, former Cuban President Raul Castro criticized “the excessive delays of the negotiating process,” and urged lawmakers to “overcome the obsolete mentality full of prejudice against foreign investment.”

In June, his successor, Miguel Diaz-Canel, called for greater creativity and agility in approving business proposals “without harming our sovereignty.”

The government estimates that to boost economic growth, Cuba needs to attract some 2.5 billion U.S. dollars a year in foreign direct investment, mainly in 15 key sectors, including industry, tourism, agrifood, mining, biotechnology, oil and renewable energy.

Cuba’s investment portfolio currently comprises some 456 projects worth 10.7 billion dollars, most within its fledgling special economic zone of Mariel, about 40 km west of Havana.

Mariel features a modern container terminal capable of handling today’s post-Panamax cargo ships. The terminal is run by Singapore-based PSA International, a leading global port administrator.

By developing Mariel port, Cuba hopes to become an important manufacturing and shipping hub in the Caribbean.

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