Cuba wants foreign investment in Mariel special development zone

Havana, Sep 25 (EFE).- Cuba wants foreign investment in the Special Development Zone in Mariel and - to attract it - the government has approved advantageous tax and customs policies that will enter into force in November.

Interest in attracting foreign investment to the zone is made explicit in the document signed last week by President Raul Castro.

Generating exports, jobs, financing, technology transfer and logistical systems and stimulating the establishment of domestic and foreign firms in the area are the aims of the ZEDM project, which should be in operation in 2014.

"What the zone is intended for is to create a special climate where foreign capital is going to have better conditions than in the rest of the country," Cuba's foreign trade and investment minister, Rodrigo Malmierca, said in Beijing.

Malmierca made a special presentation to Chinese businessmen concerning the characteristics, legal conditions and potential of the ZEDM initiative in Mariel, a port 45 kilometers (28 miles) west of Havana.

Foreign investors establishing themselves in the ZEDM will be able to transfer their funds or net profits abroad without paying taxes or other tariffs.

Expanding the port at Mariel is the most important investment project currently under way on the island totaling some $900 million and largely financed by a $640 million loan from Brazil.

Although Cuba began opening itself up to foreign investment in the mid-1980s, it was in the '90s that it began pushing that option when the country slid into a serious economic crisis with the collapse of the socialist bloc.

The government of Raul Castro says that it is working on modifying the foreign investment law as part of the process being undertaken to "update" Cuba's socialist model.