Cuban government turns to growing diaspora to invest in the island

Cuban government turns to growing diaspora to invest in the island

HAVANA, Nov 14  Cuban government wants to take advantage of its growing population abroad in search of new investments to lift the economy, a senior Foreign Ministry official told Reuters this week, as the island tries to overcome its worst crisis in decades.

Shortages of food, fuel and medicine have led to a record number of Cubans leaving the island in the last two years.

“The (phenomenon) exists, it is a considerable number, which is having today the highest impact it has had in history in demographic terms,” said Ernesto Soberón, director of Consular Affairs at the Foreign Ministry, in an interview in Havana on Monday. Cuban, pointed out that young people occupy an important place among those who leave the country.

Cuban emigrants have already invested in accommodations including breakfasts, restaurants and other activities on the island, but Cuba would like to see more capital flow, he added.

“Today Cubans abroad have no limitations in the sense of participating in the economic life of the country,” he said.

More than 400 Cuban citizens residing in more than 40 countries will arrive in Havana this week to discuss the evolution of the island’s economy and other issues with the Government, in the first meeting of this type between the authorities and the growing diaspora in almost two decades.

The landscape has changed dramatically since the two sides last met formally in 2004, under the government of former leader Fidel Castro. Around 2.5 million Cubans and their descendants live outside the island today, he said.

In 2021, Cuba lifted a ban on the opening of private companies considered a scourge under Castro. The Cuban government, which once limited its citizens’ travel abroad, has now allowed most to enter and leave freely although it still restricts the travel of dissidents, athletes and some others.

Some things, however, have not changed, said Soberón, who said the U.S. embargo has tightened in recent years with financial hurdles that complicate the flow of capital needed to start and run a business. “You can’t walk around with a suitcase of money here and there,” he noted.

Democratic President Joe Biden’s administration, which maintains Cuba must improve its human rights record before granting concessions, has shown interest but has been lukewarm in support for the island’s small businesses.

But he recently stopped short of announcing expected new measures to facilitate the flow of capital among small and medium-sized private entrepreneurs, while some in the Cuban-American community have little appetite for working with the Cuban government.