Cuba sees 3.1 pct growth in 2011, end to bank crisis

HAVANA (Reuters) – Cuba expects its economy to grow 3.1 per cent in 2011 and be in good enough shape that it can unfreeze hundreds of foreign business accounts that have been blocked in Cuban banks due to a liquidity crisis, President Raul Castro said yesterday.

In a speech to the Cuban parliament, he also said progress had been made in renegotiating debt, while orders had gone out to take on no more debt unless it can be paid on time.

Castro’s words will be welcomed by foreign account holders who have not been able to get money from their Cuban banks for two years because the communist-led country lacked cash.

The account freeze, believed to have at one time totalled about $1 billion, has strained relations between Cuba and the international business community.

Last year, Castro said 30 per cent of the accounts had been unblocked, and yesterday he said the number of affected accounts “continued diminishing.”

The restrictions “will be totally abolished next year,” he said.

Castro said Cuba’s plans forecast 3.1 per cent economic growth for 2011, up from 2.1 per cent this year, as the island slowly emerges from an extended slump.

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