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Storm Irma batters already struggling Cuban economy

2017年 9月 14日 Thursday - 01:32

Cuba's cash-strapped economy has suffered this year from a decline in aid from its chief ally Venezuela, lower exports and a brake on market reforms. And then came Hurricane Irma - the strongest storm to hit the island in more than 80 years. Sonia Legg reports.

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Storm Irma was unforgiving, hitting Cuba when it was already down. It had seen aid decline from crisis-hit neighbour Venezuela, exports were lower and some market reforms were on hold. The damage was widespread and across sectors. (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) DELEGATE FROM TOURISM MINISTRY IN MATANZAS, IBIS FERNANDEZ, SAYING: "Varadero, is an important centre, it's the main destination for sun and beach and once we sort out Varadero we can continue our economic development." The deluge of water has refilled reservoirs at a time when shortages were a problem. But it was at a heavy price. Sugar is a key export and a big employer. Farmers tried to harvest before the storm. But an area of sugarcane twice the size of Houston - was still affected, along with 40 percent of mills. (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) FARMER, ALEXIS ABADE, SAYING: (VIEWS OF DESTROYED BANANA PLANTATIONS SEEN AS ABADE STARTS TALKING) "It was terrible, look at all the damage, but we must keep fighting." Tourism and agriculture had been helping Cuba pay off its overseas creditors and suppliers. It now has the rebuilding costs too. (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) CUBAN ECONOMY MINISTER, MANUEL MARRERO, SAYING: "Once the cleaning up is done (of the keys) and we start to recover and all these resources, really it's easy to recover, even if there has been major damage compared to other areas." Getting tourists back will be key - but first they must repair the airport, the hotels and even the power grid. A plant that provides a fifth of the country's electricity was also damaged.

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Storm Irma batters already struggling Cuban economy

2017年 9月 14日 Thursday - 01:32