As if the 47 year-old economic blockade imposed on Cuba by the United States wasn't burden enough, last year the economy was hard hit by three powerful hurricanes. But, in spite of all this, one thing is certain: there would be no budget cuts affecting welfare.
2008 has been regarded in Cuba as one of the most difficult years since the beginning of the Special Period back in 1990. Because of international speculation, Cuba ended up paying for its imports much more than expected.
Just on food prices alone, there was a 53% increase, with regards to 2007. To make things worse, the hurricanes forced the nation to make larger imports of food in order to counteract the effects of a devastated agriculture.
But, in spite of all this, there was an economic growth of 4.3% last year. Not bad, but still short of the forecasted 8%. And confident in the future, economists are predicting a 6% growth for 2009.
In Cuba, the state budget is never used to finance luxuries and the comfort of a few. Social programs will account for 43.6% of the 2009 state budget, which would represent 30.2% of the expected Gross National Product, if prices remain stable.
In fact, Cuba sets apart a substantial part of its income to guarantee social and economic development, including public health and education, street sanitation, science, technology and the environment. Even if some investments would have to be differed, such areas would not be affected.