January 10, 2008 / 2:33 PM / 11 years ago

Cuban service exports continue dramatic rise

HAVANA, Jan 10 (Reuters) - Cuban service exports increased dramatically for the third consecutive year in 2007 to $8.36 billion, more than twice the level reported in 2004, the government said this week.

The mounting service income, mainly from leftist ally Venezuela, has enabled Cuba to more or less balance its external finances despite a huge trade deficit, pay debts contracted since 1991 and register strong growth after years of crisis that followed the demise of the Soviet Union.

The National Statistics Office, in preliminary figures posted on its Web site (www.one.cu), reported the 21.5 percent, or $1.5 billion, jump in service exports was not related to tourism revenues, which stagnated at $2.2 billion.

Cuba does not specify what it includes within the service export category, though on various occasions officials have said tourism and related revenues, the export of medical and other technical services and donations fall within it.

Revenues from pharmaceutical and other joint ventures abroad may also be included, according to local economists, as well as the training of foreign students.

Non-tourism related service exports began their dramatic increase after a 2004 accord with Venezuela, under which the oil-rich South American country pays for massive health and other assistance.

At the time, service exports were just under $4 billion, of which more than half were from tourism and related activities.

Cuba reported 39,000 of its citizens worked in Venezuela last year, 30,000 of them in the health sector.

Cuba has also increased the export of services to Caribbean countries under Venezuela’s Petrocaribe plan, which provides preferential financing for oil at 1 percent interest over 24 years if the saved revenues are used for economic and social development, often with Cuban participation.

Revenues from joint pharmaceutical ventures in countries as varied as Iran, Russia, India, Malaysia and China most likely fall under the service export category, as well as Cuban projects to build and staff eye clinics in various countries in Latin America, Asia, Africa and the Middle East. (Reporting by Marc Frank)

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