They warn that Cuba's international reserves have suffered a sharp drop in recent years
Economists warned that the financial situation on the island is very delicate, especially after the pandemic. The former Minister of Economy, José Luis Rodríguez, estimated that by 2021 the reserves were close to 2,500 million dollars
Headquarters of the Central Bank of Cuba
Cuba's state media created a stir among economists, diplomats and creditors by publishing an estimate of the Caribbean island's international reserves, an elusive set of data long considered a “state secret” in the country.
In the midst of a two-part, 2,000-word analysis of the local economy earlier this month in CubaDebate, the main digital media platform, the former Minister of Economy, José Luis Rodríguez, estimated the country's international reserves at 11,528 million dollars in 2019 and estimated that they had decreased by 2,500 million or 22% until 2021.
The news agency Reuters also recently saw an unprecedented presentation by another senior economist, who did not authorize the use of his name for this report, which placed reserves at 8 billion in 2022, coinciding with data published in CubaDebate.< /p>
The Cuban regime did not respond to a request for comment on the matter.
Cuba does not disclose reserve data and publishes very limited information on current accounts and debt figures with three years late, arguing that such delays are necessary to avoid further economic persecution by its historical enemy, the United States.
“These data show that reserves International rates have decreased a lot and that is very serious,” said Cuban economist Omar Everleny, who like other interviewees for this story could not independently confirm the figures.
Cuba suffers a severe shortage of food, medicine and other basic products (EFE/Ernesto Mastrascusa)
In CubaDebate, Rodríguez said that reserves were affected after the coronavirus pandemic and the new sanctions imposed on Cuba under former US President Donald Trump.
Cuba, whose economy remains 8% below 2019 levels, it uses its precious reserves to import food, fuel, spare parts, industrial parts and agricultural inputs from abroad.
The last time Cuba's reserve figures were known was in 2014 when what seemed to be an official document reached the hands of diplomats, and the data placed it at 10,000 million dollars.
The data on reserves is also important because it indicates the capacity that the Cuban government may have to pay its creditors.
Cuba defaulted on debt to major government creditors such as the Paris Club of rich creditor nations in 2020 and maintains that it has fallen behind on payments to many joint venture partners and suppliers.
Pavel Vidal, a former economist at the Central Bank of Cuba who now lives in Colombia, said he thought reserves were probably much lower and believes the new figures may have combined the reserves of the central bank with other hard currency reserves.
“If they are talking about money saved by the state, that would be a very broad definition (…) because companies, commercial banks and non-bank financial institutions can be included and a lot can be added,” he said.
“But what the data shows is that reserves are shrinking, a bad sign for any country,” he noted.
(With information from R euters)