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Castro Sees Acceptable Cuban Economic Growth of 3.7% Next Year

Cuban President Raul Castro said that economic growth will be at an “acceptable” 3.7 percent next year as the communist government eases control over businesses and employment.

The Caribbean nation’s economy expanded a less than forecast 3.1 percent in 2012 even as tourist arrival jumped a record 4.9 percent, Castro told the National Assembly yesterday. The government had previously forecast growth of 3.4 percent for this year, he said.

The growth forecast for next year “is acceptable in a scenario of a continuing global economic crisis and persecution of Cuban bank transactions” due to the U.S. embargo, Castro said, according to a transcript of the speech posted on the government-run website Granma.

Since his brother Fidel started handing over power in 2006, Castro has taken measures to open the island’s economy, including loosening of property laws and controls prohibiting private enterprise such as taxi and mobile phone companies. Cooperatives with as many as five employees began managing their own operations this month, a policy meant to loosen restrictions on basic services and increase productivity.

Almost 400,000 Cubans are now self-employed, a number that should grow as the government allows more private enterprise, Castro said.

He vowed support for Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who suffered complications while undergoing a six-hour cancer surgery in Cuba on Dec. 11.

“At this crucial hour, we are as always, joining with President Chavez,” Castro said.

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