Picture: AFP
Picture: AFP

Havana — Cash-strapped Cuba has published details for the first time of its foreign exchange earnings from services such as telecommunications, hotels, health and education assistance, in an apparent concession to creditors.

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 have expressed frustration in recent months 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.

Biggest export earner

According to the report on the national statistics office web page the biggest export earner in 2018 was health services at $6.4bn, followed by “support services” at $1.3bn.

The report reads hotel and related services garnered $970m, followed by telecommunications at $722m and transportation and support services, which includes everything from airlines to docking fees, at about $600m.

It 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 $18.6bn in 2013 and $14.5bn in 2018. Imports fell from $15.6bn to $12.6bn.

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

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

Reuters