Friday, August 05, 2005


In Spite of Dennis, Cuba will grow 9 per cent this Year

In spite of suffering heavy losses due to drought ($1.2 billion dollars) and hurricane Dennis ($1.4 billion), president Fidel Castro announced a sturdy growth rate of 7.3 per cent for the first half of 2005 and an estimated 9 per cent for the whole year, speaking at the Moncada Fortress attack´s 52nd anniversary commemoration.
He denied gloomy versions published by international media about the economy´s performance, taking into account the frequent and prolonged power cuts that affect the industrial and service sectors since last year.
According to official statistics, the most outstanding performances corresponded to branches as mining, oil production and tourism. It was said that 13 of 22 economic activities showed increase during the first half of the year.
Nickel production reached 38,200 metric tons in the first six months and export earnings that were the highest in the Cuban economy, while income from the tourism sector increased by 5 per cent with 66.9 percent occupation level. Over 1,920 rooms will be made available this year to the island´s hotel capacity.
Software production and assembly of TV sets doubled as compared to the same period of 2004. Domestic crude oil production went up by 9.2 per cent, but generation of electricity was down by more than 4 per cent due to delays in plant repairs, deficit of installed capacity and damages left by Dennis.
However, the Cuban president assured that present power generation capacity, around 2,000 MW would be doubled by the middle of next year due to the expansion of present plants and construction of new ones.
As to the country´s housing deficit, Fidel Castro assured that next year´s plan would amount to 100,000 homes, more than double this year´s estimate. Besides the 7,300 houses built before July´s hurricane, another 10,000 would be built for those who lost their homes in the storm and 30,000 additional lodgings will be made available, he said, before the end of 2005.

Dennis´s Toll: Sixteen dead and 1.4 billion dollars in damages

An economic insight into hurricane Dennis´s damages to Cuba is barely one indicator of the meteor´s impact. Its path of destruction exposed sensitive areas of the island´s economy as power generation and electric lines, together with the lack of independent energy sources for water and gas distribution networks.
A preliminary assessment of losses reaches 1.4 billion dollars, only 10 months after the extensive damages inflicted by hurricane Charlie in 2004.
Around 1.5 million people were evacuated from their living areas, the highest figure ever. From these, 245 thousand were given shelter and the rest went to houses of friends and family.
In spite of the extensive preventive measures, the toll of 16 fatal victims shows that resources for the people´s own protection are missing, such as building materials to secure roofs, storm lanterns, kerosene to light them, ropes and candles.
The official report says that 13 victims lived in the province of Granma, 2 in Santiago de Cuba and one in Sancti Spiritus, dying mostly due to landslides and flooded rivers. These would have practically been doubled if army amphibious vehicles had not saved dozens of dwellers in rural Havana areas, many of which had been evacuated and returned to their homes only to be surprised by a sudden surge of water from overflowed dams.
A total of 120 thousand homes were severely damaged, of these 15 thousand total collapses, 25 thousand suffered partial collapse, 24 thousand lost their roofs and another 60 thousand lost part of their covers. Hurricane Dennis came only ten months after the devastation left by Charlie and when replacement of houses destroyed by that storm was still incomplete.
Sugar cane, banana, rice and other plantations were ravaged. Chicken farms were practically blown away, killing 73,000 birds.
In spite of harsh difficulties, people started immediately to repair damages. Main power lines are connected again and hope for the next hurricanes in a season that lasts until November, miss Cuba in their destructive path.

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