14ymedio (with contributions from other news outlets), 28 March 2018 — The leader of the Communist Party of Vietnam (PCV) urged Cuba to follow the path of reform in order to develop its economy and “maintain socialism.” On a visit to the island, Nguyen Phu Trong explained during a lecture in the main auditorium of the University of Havana that, thanks to the implementation of the market economy in 2001, more than thirty million Vietnamese have emerged from poverty.
“In and of itself, the market economy itself cannot destroy socialism. But to successfully build socialism, it is necessary to develop the market economy properly and correctly,” said the top leader of the PCV.
Attending the conference was the first vice-president of Cuba, Miguel Díaz-Canel, considered by many analysts as the political heir of Raúl Castro, who is expected to resign from power on April 19.
Since 2008 Castro has launched a series of structural reforms, referred to officially as “guidelines”, whose purpose is to advance the planned and centralized Soviet-style economic system. However, changes have slowed in recent years and in 2007 the government announced a freeze on new buisness licenses for more than twenty designated fields of self-employment.
The person in charge of the reforms, Marino Murillo, has said that undertaking these changes has generated more mistakes than benefits.
“We are aware that the market economy is the result of human sensitivity and that it can coexist and adapt to differences in social constructs,” said the Vietnamese leader, who will meet later with Raúl Castro.
On Thursday, Havana handed over administrative control of the Mariel Special Development Zone (ZEDM) to the Vietnamese company ViMariel S.A., the first time it has done so to an entirely foreign-owned and funded company. The Asian company will develop infrastructure for the Mariel project.
The agreement will remain in force for fifty years and, starting in 2019, the company will develop a 160-hectare industrial park. ViMariel will provide communication services and facilities as well as power and hydraulic networks to investors.
ZEDM is a project developed by the Brazilian company Odebrecht thanks to a loan of more than 900 million dollars extended under the presidency of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. The industrial zone is intended to generate opportunities for growth and foreign investment in Cuba, but several economists lament the low indicators for the company. Of the thirty-four projects approved to operate in the area in the last five years, only ten are in operation.
ViMariel, a subsidiary of the Vietnamese Viglacera S.A., can recruit and propose new clients for the Special Zone, according to the zone’s project director, Ana Teresa Igarza.
Igarza signed the cooperation agreement along with the director of Viglacera, Nguyen Anh Tuan, at the Cuba-Vietnam business forum. Also present was Cuba’s minister for foreign trade, Rodrigo Malmierca, and his Vietnamese counterpart, Tran Tuan Anh.
The Cuban official, who expressed the island’s desire to attract investors in the fields of logistics, biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, electronics and manufacturing, said that the country is working on similar agreements with other companies to accelerate the development of ZEDM’s infrastructure.
On Monday a factory financed with Vietnamese capital was opened in Mariel. It will produce sanitary pads and disposable diapers.
After China, Vietnam is Cuba’s second largest trading partner in Asia. Trade between the two countries reached $220 million last year and is estimated to reach $500 million by 2020.
The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.