Castro Government Moves To Allow Unprecedented Foreign Investment In Cuba

In this March 15, 2014 photo, people attend the private club Cafe Madrigal in Havana, Cuba.

In this March 15, 2014 photo, people attend the private club Cafe Madrigal in Havana, Cuba.  (ap)

Cuba is poised to begin allowing foreign investment in all economic sectors except education, health and "armed institutions" and to offer tax exemptions to overseas companies, the official daily Juventud Rebelde reported Wednesday, disclosing the details of a bill proposed by Raúl Castro's government.

The new legislation "aims to provide foreign investors with full protection and legal certainty," guaranteeing that their investments "will not be expropriated except for reasons of public or social interest previously declared by the Council of Ministers," the newspaper said.

Any expropriation would take place "in conformity with the constitution and relevant international treaties the country has signed, with due compensation worked out through mutual agreement."

The draft bill provides tax exemptions on the personal income of "foreign investors who are partners in joint ventures or a party to international economic association contracts," the newspaper said.

The new legislation is an attempt to attract fresh capital to the island to jump-start its stagnant economy. It will modify an existing foreign investment law that dates to 1995, bringing it in line with the government's broader project of "updating" its socialist economic model.

According to the Miami Herald, the law will still require government approval for deals; companies will continue to have to hire from widely criticized state-run labor agencies; and investments by individual Cubans who reside on the island won't be allowed.

The National Assembly of People’s Power will meet in a special session on Saturday to vote on the draft. The Assembly is widely perceived as a rubber-stamp legislature, so passage of the measure is virtually assured.

The island nation, which has been ruled by the Communist Party since the revolution of 1959, began opening its economy to foreign investment in the mid-1980s and accelerated the pace of reform when the loss of subsidies after the collapse of the Soviet Union triggered an economic crisis. The country's economy shrank by about 35 percent as a result.

Cuba is currently seeking to attract foreign capital through projects such as the recently established Special Development Zone at the Mariel seaport, touted as the island's most important development initiative.

EFE contributed to this report.

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