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FBIS-LAT-95-173-S Daily Report 5 Sep 1995 CUBA

Castro Views Foreign Investment Law

PA0609050195 Havana Tele Rebelde Network in Spanish, 2300 GMT 5 Sep 95 PA0609050195 Havana Tele Rebelde Network Spanish BFN [Statement by President Fidel Castro during the debate on the foreign investment law by the National Assembly of the People's Government session in Havana on 5 September; from the "This Very Day" newscast -- recorded]

[FBIS Translated Text] In this regard, I think that all those who should be consulted should be consulted. The article that Felipe mentioned [words indistinct] the possibility of asking the opinion, or the need or advisability of asking the opinion of the Assembly of the People's Government and the deputies [passage indistinct] day after approval of this law that the world will be invaded by offers and investments; the country will be invaded by offers and investments. That would be a great (?illusion) of what we would be doing next year. Foreign investments have (?worked) so far with Decree-Law 50. And there has been no impediment [words indistinct] to grant authorizations.

The constitutional hurdles were solved, and I remember well, I personally proposed institutional modifications including [words indistinct] approval of enterprises with complete foreign capital. One needs not rack our brains because very few would fall under that category. There could be certain circumstances and that is why we had to include it in the law. Mixed enterprises or enterprises completely owned by foreigners. I think that there should be very few enterprises completely owned by foreigners, because it is in the interest of the country to maintain an important participation in the property of the enterprises. The country should maintain a majority ownership of all [word indistinct].

This is not a privatization [laughes] [words indistinct]. We will try, above all, to establish mixed enterprises, and only as an exception, would accept enterprises with 100 percent foreign capital. I would say that, from today's outlook, that this would be an exception. I will tell you... [pauses] discuss and inform the people; I would ask for opinions instead of blocking help.

In this regard, we should try to ensure that the investment ministry do its job, because otherwise, we would have to draft an unending list of persons and institutions to that should be consulted [laughes] we would have to consult everyone's opinion regarding what we should do. So far [words indistinct] all that is foolishness. Let us speak the truth.

It is little, very little. What has been great is the blockade and the U.S. pressures to keep them from investing. We, on the contrary, are (?opening) more possibilities. All sorts of people, adventurers, have come here wanting to make deals. They had ordinary, absurd, clumsy, and unacceptable ideas. People come in here seeking to be a partner of the country, although they lack money or capital. People have made us waste out time with their deception. They have shown up with seemingly fabulous offers, with low interest rates. Every time, I see them I say this can come from the CIA. Even the CIA has been making offers of investments in hotels to make us waste one, two, or three years holding discussions.

Sometimes, the project may be something important as an airport, or a air terminal, which we may need for tourism, and this is something in which we cannot delay a single minute, or else everything comes to halt. So, we have had all these things, and we have to be on the lookout. We have to consult foreign banks, foreign institutions, every time someone comes here claiming to have so much money or something. Swindlers have (?arrived in the country) with false offers and papers proposing all sorts of nonsense.

We have to consult banks, financial companies. We have to seek advisory services abroad to determine with whom we are holding talks, who are they, what is their solvency, how serious they are. We do not know [word indistinct] the people we have to consult. We have to consult the world. These 212 joint ventures have been consulted at the level of the presidency of the Council of State, [words indistinct] and we have reviewed the 212 joint ventures one by one. I wish we had to review 212,000 or at least 12,000 or 2,120, or 21,200 joint ventures. We would gladly devote our time to that.

You cannot image the time we have wasted in meeting idiots, swindlers. All this kind of people come around. The enemy is trying to challenge what we do or sabotage what we do through all possible means. Really, the figure is very low. As Lage [Carlos Lage, vice president of the Council of State] said there are 53,000 workers, but many of them would be working, 53,000 people working in joint ventures - - a cement or nickel factory, perhaps -- meaning, that it has not even meant 53,000 jobs, or meant or guaranteed steady employment in conditions of efficiency for 53,000 workers [sentence as heard]. That is what we have.

(?There is much talk) of tourism, such a brouhaha over tourism, but for every dollar invested from abroad, the Cuban state has invested three dollars. We have a few hotels that are joint ventures. The country under these conditions has shouldered the effort to develop tourism, and it has. Tourism already provides indirect employment to tens of thousands of people making products for tourism. Tourism provides 200 -- I do not know the exact amount, but it is over 200 million [currency not given] to finance the national industry that manufactures products to be sold in the tourism activity.

Therefore, tourism has an exponential effect and all the weight of tourism has in reality fallen on [word indistinct]; it has fallen on the resources of the country. And we are not sad. We are very happy for this.

We have the administration enterprise, the interest to attract tourists. And all of this [words indistinct] because sometimes some companeros have gotten carried away in giving concessions to an administration. Regarding the hotels that are ours but are administered by a prestigious or not-so-prestigious foreign company, we are studying all of that real well, because in each case we must do what benefits us. And we are not privatizing hotels with this law. We are seeking capitals to develop tourism areas, for which we do not have enough money.

But, gentlemen, I am going to say the truth, which is something more embarrassing. We have had more capacity to finance hotels than capacity to build them, because in reality our hotel builders are a disaster. And one of the things we must truly perfect and seek efficiency [words indistinct] is in the issue of hotel construction. I say this... [pauses] it is good to say this. It is good we are all aware of this. It is good we pressure all those who should be pressured because we don't know yet how to build. This is a shame. And we have had 35 years to learn. We do not yet know how to build.

Of course, there are some brigades that stand out; some works, some things regarding efficiency and quickness. This is added many times to objective difficulties, like materials here and there. But not even during the best of times and with most resources did we know how to build with all the necessary efficiency until we created the contingents, seeking elite construction forces. But I want you to know that what hinders our tourism development has not been financing [laughs] It has been the inefficiency in construction. Likewise, what hinders tourism development has been the lack of capacity, the lack of competence to market. We have been terrible in marketing tourism. This is a new thing we are beginning to learn, which we must learn.

Now regarding something like nickel, a new industry like [word indistinct], where the association with foreign capital has turned out excellent and has reached very high production levels and it has possibilities of increasing, mixed enterprises are advancing. They have a series of [words indistinct] we did not yet have this law.

The law will help us a bit more in the struggle against sabotage and against the opposition of imperialism to allow us to develop the country and carry out these investments. A bunch of formulas have appeared here and there; credits, for instance, to resupply spares -- I guess that is what they called it. In the production of tobacco, credits have been given to obtain fertilizers, chemicals, herbicides.

We are doing the same thing with sugarcane. We are going to try to do the same with rice, because it will always be more economical to produce it in this way, although we must recall that the loans that are granted to us have a high interest, but [words indistinct] we have been receiving loans to produce things whose production had been suspended due to a lack of parts.

Thus, we are doing many things. Many formulas have emerged around this that show the advisability of what we have done. We have neither invested much nor will this grow like wildfire the day after this law. In making this clarification I note that I read our newspapers that with the best intention in the world have commented on the law's importance -- and they are important. There is a risk, however, of giving the impression that after approval of this law we will see a deluge of investments into the country. Let us not harbor many illusions.

What we have, we have achieved little by little throughout all these years. And we achieved them with a solid basis. And finally, the great majority of these 212 involve small deals, but small ones. Some involve $300,000 that someone disbursed because he brought a machine, found a market, and established an association with $300,000. Some of them are micro associations and micro businesses. Some of them are even inventions of our organizations [words indistinct], because privileges are later created around some of these associations such as certain diversion of resources and other things that were discussed at the meeting on the enterprises. And the most dangerous are not among them. They are the ones that organizations create on their own. And we have reported certain cases, I know certain cases in institutions, university schools, research centers [passage indistinct].

Those things exist, indiscipline and problems of this sort. I seized this opportunity to note this given that many journalists and other persons are here, because it is advisable that the comrades know about all these things in order to exert influence on some of these problems and on some of the concepts that we are dealing with. It is good for people to know about this. We do not want people to harbor illusions that this law will bring a universal deluge of convertible currency to be invested in Cuba. Pardon me for taking up so much time. [applause]