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"Have no fear!" says economist on improved US-Cuba ties

Claremont Kirton and Earl Moxam on That's a Rap
Claremont Kirton, a Jamaica based Professor of Economics, has declared that there is no basis for fears of  a possible fallout for Jamaica and the wider Caribbean region, arising from improved US/Cuba bilateral relations.

US President Barack Obama last week announced several initiatives to improve economic and social ties with the communist nation, including the opening of an embassy in Havana and easing travel restrictions on Americans traveling to the island, as well as improved facilitation of financial transactions between the two nations.

Questions have since arisen in Jamaica, regarding possible negative implications for this country's tourism sector, in particular, although the new measures do not yet include direct American tourist travel to Cuba.

Professor Kirton, speaking on That's a Rap, RJR's weekly news review show, on Sunday, dismissed such concerns as baseless.

Recalling that as three decades ago, this scenario had arisen in discussions with the Cubans, "and the Cubans' position was that they were both willing and able to have joint airlifts, joint approaches, and have a situation where someone can come from North America to Cuba, to Jamaica...." and elsewhere in the Caribbean.

Rather than expressing such apprehensions, he said, Jamaica and other CARICOM States should seek to develop "a joint product" with Cuba.

Kirton, currently Deputy Executive Director of UWI Consulting, a consultancy arm of the regional university, cited the need for the institution to "develop MOUs with the relevant institutions in Cuba" to focus on  joint initiatives in the area of medical research, which would enhance medical tourism across the Caribbean.

Such initiatives could also be extended to other fields, such as agriculture, he said.

UWI Consulting "will seek to discuss with the Cuban Government where we can develop these possilities," he added.

MAIN ELEMENTS OF US POLICY SHIFT ON CUBA

Travel

Ease travel under general licenses for 12 existing categories of travel to Cuba. They are: family visits; official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments and certain intergovernmental organizations; journalistic activity; professional research and professional meetings; educational activities; religious activities; public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions; support for the Cuban people; humanitarian projects; activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes; exportation, importation or transmission of information or information materials; and certain export transactions that may be considered for authorization under existing regulations and guidelines. Tourist travel remains banned.

Remittances

The amount of money anyone in the United States will be allowed to send to Cuban nationals, except certain government or Communist Party officials, will increase from US$500 to US$2,000 every three months. Early in his presidency, Obama allowed unlimited family visits by Cuban-Americans and removed a $1,200 annual cap on remittances.

Cigars

Licensed American travelers to Cuba can return home with up to US$400 of merchandise, including tobacco and alcohol products worth no more than US$100 combined. Any Cuban cigars brought back to the U.S. must be for personal use, not for resale.

Financial transactions

American institutions will be allowed to open accounts at Cuban financial institutions to help process authorized transactions. US credit cards and debit cards will be accepted in Cuba.

Access to communications

The US Government will allow the commercial export of certain items that will help increase the Cuban people's ability to communicate with people in America and other countries.This will include the commercial sale of certain consumer communications devices, related software, applications, hardware, services and items to establish and update communications-related systems.

Review of Cuba's designation as a State sponsor of terrorism

US Secretary of State John Kerry will immediately begin a review and report to Obama within six months. Cuba was added to America’s list of State sponsors of terrorism in 1982.

 

SOURCE: Associated Press



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