HAVANA TIMES — Cuba will open to foreign investment starting Friday at the newly created special economic zone around the port of Mariel, a mega project to try to boost capital inflows to the island, reported dpa news.
The Bureau of the Special Zone Development at Mariel opens and laws granting tax benefits also take effect November 1 in the new industrial site, located about 45 kilometers west of Havana .
The planned special economic zone, similar to those that propelled China’s economic development in the late 70s, will have 465.4 square kilometers. The port of Mariel, which shot to fame by the mass exodus of 1980, is the centerpiece of the megaproject, funded in part with Brazilian capital.
The authorities will grant various tax privileges for companies operating in the zone. Among them is the tax exemption on labor, and on profits for ten years, with renewal options.
The administrative concession is granted for “the management of a public service works or the exploitation of property for 50 years and may be extended,” project evaluation business manager Oscar Peres told Prensa Latina.
The island hopes to get investment for “the production of drugs, biotechnology, renewable energy, agriculture, industry, tourism, real estate, telecommunications, information technology and infrastructure,” the report said.
Cuba, subject to a process of economic liberalization for several years, hopes to turn the area around Mariel into a “trading hub” in the region.
The port of Mariel became famous for the mass exodus of Cubans to the United States in 1980. An estimated 125,000 people left the island then. Exiles settled mainly in Florida came in boats to pick up relatives in the harbor between April 15 and October 31 of that year, in one of the worst migration crises between the US and Cuba.
Infrastructure works to enlarge the port are being carried out with considerable financial support from Brazil. Dilma Rousseff ‘s government has granted a loan of 680 million dollars.
Brazil’s Odebrecht Group is also involved in the construction work. The “Mariel project” is one of the biggest efforts of the Castro government to revive the ailing economy of the island.
The industrial zone in construction between the between the bays of Mariel and Cabanas will also have a container terminal.