August 2, 2019 / 5:38 PM / 22 days ago

Cuba reveals health, hotel, other service earnings

HAVANA (Reuters) - Cash-strapped Cuba on Friday for the first time published details of its foreign exchange earnings from services such as telecommunications, hotels, health and education assistance, in an apparent concession to creditors.

FILE PHOTO: Hundreds of Cuban doctors listen to a speech by Cuban President Fidel Castro in Havana, Cuba September 4, 2005. REUTERS/Claudia Daut/File Photo

Service exports make up most of the Communist-run country’s foreign exchange earnings. But for decades the Caribbean island nation has refused to publish details despite requests by foreign governments and businesses.

A number of western diplomats involved in debt and trade talks with Cuba in recent months have expressed frustration that officials have not provided details on the country’s financial situation.

A common complaint of potential foreign business partners is that their Cuban counterparts refuse to provide information needed for proper due diligence, for example, when discussing potential collateral through telecommunications or transportation earnings.

According to the report on the National Statistics Office web page (here.pdf) the biggest export earner in 2018 was health services at $6.4 billion, followed by "support services" at $1.3 billion.

The report on page 47 said hotel and related services garnered $970 million, followed by telecommunications at $722 million and transportation and support services, which includes everything from airlines to docking fees, at around $600 million.

The report did not provide data for previous years.

The country’s foreign exchange earnings have declined in recent years in tandem with the implosion of its ally and main economic partner, Venezuela, forcing the government to adopt austerity measures aimed at limiting imports.

Total exports were $18.6 billion in 2013 and $14.5 billion last year. Imports fell from $15.6 billion to $12.6 billion.

The economy has stagnated and tough new U.S. sanctions on some 175 Cuban companies, tourism and investment are expected to worsen the situation in 2019.

Cuba last reported its foreign debt at $18.2 billion for 2016 and considers its current account and reserves state secrets.

Reporting by Marc Frank; Editing by Dan Grebler

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