MOODY'S REPORTS: CUBA'S Caa1 RATING & STABLE OUTLOOK BASED ON POOR DEBT RECORD AND LIMITED ACCESS TO LONG-TERM FINANCING
New York, October 10, 2003 -- In its annual report on Cuba, Moody's Investors Service says the country's Caa1 foreign-currency rating and stable outlook are based on a debt moratorium, in place since 1986, continued evidence of a flawed payments record, extreme dependence on imported goods, and limited access to long-term external financing.
"Cuba remains an economy in transition, whose medium-term outlook depends largely on the willingness of the authorities to consolidate reforms enacted to date," says Moody's Vice President Mauro Leos, author of the report. "While major structural reforms have been made since the early 1990's, the efforts since then have taken the form of repeated, yet partial, attempts to liberalize the economic system."
The transfer of political power to a new generation, and the need to define a regime capable of responding to greater economic expectations and increased social demands are the fundamental challenges over the medium-term, says the Moody's report.
"A dynamic and restored tourism sector has become the major driving force in the economy, reversing the decline that followed the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorism attacks," says Mr. Leos. "It is the island's most important source of foreign exchange, and a major contributor to the recomposition of foreign-currency earnings."
With total arrivals of 1 million, the number of visitors to Cuba increased by 16% during the first six months of 2003 in comparison to the same period in 2002. These figures are a marked contrast with 2002's overall 5% decline in arrivals.
"Cuba 's international liquidity position has reported a deterioration," says Mr. Leos. "Faced with financial difficulties, the government fell behind on short-term external financial obligations." In addition, the government defaulted last year on various debts to suppliers and demanded a rescheduling of its external obligations to its commercial creditors
The reports of harsh treatment of dissidents by the Castro regime has caused new tensions with the European Union (EU), one of Cuba's most important sources of trade, tourism and foreign investment. The situation has prompted some EU members to scale back on their political and economic contacts with Castro's government.
"These actions could have significant implications if they extend to areas where the potential economic impact could be significant," says the analyst.
The report, "Cuba: Global Credit Research," is a yearly update to the markets and is not a formal action to alter the credit rating of the issuer.
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