HAVANA, March 9 Cuba said on Thursday it had
approved five new business proposals for its Mariel special
development zone, bringing the total so far to 24 projects from
11 countries, worth $966 million in investment.
The Communist-run island created the zone three years ago,
hoping to lure foreign capital with significant tax and customs
breaks to boost its anemic economy.
But the projects approved since the country's annual trade
fair last November are mainly services providers, rather than
factories that would require heavy investment.
They include Portuguese firm Engimov, which will offer
engineering and construction services, and a Cuban-Spanish joint
venture that will provide tourism services, said Oscar Perez,
Mariel's business assessment director.
Ultimately, cash-strapped Cuba hopes to replace imports with
goods manufactured in the zone around Mariel Bay, just west of
Swiss firm Nestle (NESN.S), for example, has imported goods
to Cuba for many years and is close to reaching a deal on
forming a joint venture in Mariel.
In an interview on Wednesday, Nestle Vice President Laurent
Freixe said the company aimed to build a $50 million to $60
million factory producing coffee, cookies and cooking products.
At last year's trade fair, Foreign Commerce Minister Rodrigo
Malmierca admitted the country was behind on its plans to
attract $2 billion in investment annually to update the economy.
(Editing by Dan Grebler)