UPDATE 2-Cuba sees growth halving to 2 pct on lower export revenues

martes 29 de diciembre de 2015 21:18 GYT

(Adds comments by President Raul Castro)

By Marc Frank

HAVANA Dec 29 (Reuters) - Cuba is forecasting that economic growth will halve in 2016 to 2 percent from this year, and Cuban President Raul Castro on Tuesday blamed the decline on falling export revenues.

Echoing an earlier statement by Economy Minister Marino Murillo, Castro confirmed the forecast for a slowdown in 2016 as he closed the year-end-session of the National Assembly, from which foreign journalists were barred. His comments were reported by official media.

Castro attributed the decline to "financial limitations associated with the fall in earnings from traditional exports," the Cuban News Agency (ACN )reported.

Prices for key exports such as sugar, nickel and refined oil products have all fallen significantly this year.

Castro said lower oil prices had reduced the cost of a number of imports such as food but also hurt "mutually advantageous cooperation relations with various (oil-producing) countries, in particular the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela."

The collapse of oil prices punishes Cuba under the terms of its oil deal with Venezuela. Cuba receives more than 100,000 barrels of oil per day as part of an exchange that sends Cuban professionals to Venezuela. Some 30,000 doctors and nurses, plus another 10,000 professionals, are posted in Venezuela.

Cuba also receives cash for the workers. Economists and oil market experts believe the amount is tied to oil prices, meaning Venezuela would pay less to Cuba when prices are down.   Continuación...