Friday, August 27, 2010

Cuba, with eye on golf, liberalizes land law

Cuba, with eye on golf, liberalizes land law
Fri, Aug 27, 2010

HAVANA, CUBA - The cash-strapped Cuban government will allow foreign
investors to use state-owned land for up to 99 years in a change that is
likely to bring developments of luxury golf courses to the communist island.

The new law, published in the Official Gazette on Thursday, was said to
be aimed at "facilitating the process of participation of foreign
investment in international tourism"by giving "greater security and
guarantee to the foreign investor in the real estate business."

Cuban authorities have said that a dozen or so golf developments are
under consideration as they seek ways to boost tourist revenues for the
fragile economy.

Before the legal change, which was decreed in July but not announced
until Thursday, Cuban law permitted use of state lands for 50 years.
Most land in Cuba belongs to the government.

Foreign investors who have proposed the golf developments say the
99-year limit is necessary to attract buyers and make their projects,
which will feature course-side homes, financially viable.

Cuba, which discouraged the sport after the 1959 revolution, has only
two golf courses.

Cuba attracted about 2.4 million tourists last year, and is hoping golf
will bring wealthier visitors to the island.

Officials are also planning for the day when the United States, 90 miles
(145 km) away, ends its longstanding ban on travel to Cuba.

Legislation is pending in the U.S. Congress that would lift the ban that
is part of the 48-year-old U.S. trade embargo against Cuba.

President Raul Castro has undertaken various reforms to improve the
Cuban economy, with the goal of ensuring the survival of the communist
system installed after the revolution that put his older brother Fidel
Castro in power.

Earlier this month, he told the national parliament that the government
would grant more licenses for people to operate small businesses.

In another decree published in the Official Gazette on Thursday, the
government said it would allow small-time private vendors to sell
agricultural products from roadside stands.

The concept has been in use in some parts of the country since last
year, but now is official national policy.

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