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How Will Changes In Cuba Policy Affect Florida's Economy?

Stewart Cutler

This was originally posted on Dec. 23, 2014 from WMFE.

Impassioned reactions continue to pour in over the political and social implications of President Obama’s plan to normalize relations with Cuba. This week, 90.7 economic analyst Hank Fishkind takes Nicole Creston through the economic implications for Florida and for our region. 

On the President’s plan:

“The changes are going to be modest because the economic embargo still remains in place. There is some easing of travel restrictions which will make it easier on families and sponsored trips. Americans will be able to use credit cards up to $500. There will also be some increase in technology – but we’ll see if Cuba will allow it. We will also see an increase in trade, especially agricultural goods. There is a substantial amount of agriculture – over $350 million now – which will probably double over the next few years.”

On economic impact on Cuba:

“Cuba remains a socialist country and so any company or individual that invests can only be a minority partner with the Cuban government. Cuba has allowed trade and investment with Europe and other parts of the world and there hasn’t been much investment in Cuba. The reason is foreign companies and investors don’t want to be minority partners with the Cuban government. Unless those regulations are changed, the impact is going to be relatively modest.”

On economic impact on Florida:

“I think in the short-term there will be some expansion of Cuba’s agricultural economy. They could provide some competition with [Florida] sugar in particular. It will take a significant change in the regulations to get a significant change in investment. I think that will eventually come.”

On Cuba’s tourism industry:

“Over time, I think what will happen is more investment will be allowed in certain sectors without the involvement of the government or without the government being the majority shareholder. Once that happens, it will trigger a boom in hotel and resort development in Cuba. Already we’ve seen major casino developers want to come into Florida and open gambling resorts. We haven’t yet made that step in Florida, but I believe we will. And I think Cuba will welcome those kinda of large-scale resorts. Cuba in the 1950’s was a big tourist destination and it was big competition for Florida. Ten or fifteen years from now, Cuba again will probably be a significant competitor for meetings, conventions and big resort casino business. ”

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