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Economic Growth
Cuba said its economy grew 12.5 per cent this year, the fastest pace in the Westernhemisphere, and that its budget deficit remained well under control despite a 32 per cent rise in spending.

The Communist-run government said the growth figure, based on its own formula that includes subsidised social services, would have been 9.5 per cent using traditional measurements.

Economy and Planning Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez told a year-end session of parliament the jump in gross domestic product was "the highest figure in our revolutionary history... and also the highest in the region."

The UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) said this month the Cuban formula was still under study as it was based on estimates of the market value of free social services and subsidised goods, as well as massive medical and other services exported mainly to Venezuela.

"We will continue to demand the right to have our figures published by all international organisations, especially those within the UN system," Rodriguez said.

Cuba claimed 11.8 per cent growth last year, while sources such as the Economist Intelligence Unit and the CIA estimated the formula overstated the rise by 3-4 percentage points.

Finance Minister Georgina Barreiro told parliament this years budget deficit was a bit less than in 2005, coming in at 3.2 per cent of GDP despite a jump in spending from 25 billion pesos in 2005 to around 33 billion pesos this year.

Barreiro said spending would rise 9.1 per cent in 2007.

Cuba officially pegs the peso at 92 US cents but, at state-run exchange houses, it is valued at less than 5 cents.

The peso budget includes a hidden and often more important foreign exchange budget, according to government sources.

For the first time in many years, no information on Cubas external finances or trade was provided at the session of the National Assembly, which meets twice a year.

Since the United States began enforcing its decades-old trade embargo on Cuba more strictly in 2004, scarce economic data has become even harder to come by. When provided, it often differs from official to official and report to report.

ECLAC, basing its report on figures provided by the Cuban government, said exports of goods and services were $10.443billion this year, compared with $7.2 billion in 2005, largely due to a 53 per cent rise in service exports.

The report said imports were $10.352 billion, compared with$7.963 billion in 2005.

"There was an increase in international reserves and as light decrease in the foreign debt," ECLAC said, without providing details.
Source: The News International Pakistan

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