HAVANA – Cuban exports of goods and services generated about $9 billion in income in 2011, a senior government official said, as the island is diversifying and relying less on established sectors such as nickel and sugar.
Antonio Luis Carricarte Corona announced the new figures on Tuesday, though there was some confusion about the number. Carricarte told journalists the results represented a 20 percent increase over 2010 numbers, but figures published on the government statistics office Web site put exports of goods and services for that year at more than $14 billion.
Cuba uses nonstandard accounting methods that take into account things like the value of the brigades of doctors, technicians and advisers it sends to countries such as Venezuela in a barter exchange in return for oil and other goods. Still, the reason for the discrepancy between Carricarte's numbers and those published on the government Web site was not immediately clear. The government did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Carricarte singled out medicine sales, which made up 15 percent of exports last year, as an area where the government envisions continued growth.
Outside estimates offer different numbers. The CIA World Factbook put Cuban exports at $4.7 billion last year, for example.
Carricarte also noted efforts to promote Cuba as a destination for medical tourism.
"The prospects could be very big," he said.
Carricarte said nickel made up 30 percent of exports last year. Sugar, which at one time accounted for 70 percent, is today just about 9 percent.
Carricarte said that services such as tourism, health care and computing currently make up more than 70 percent of revenue.