Cuba does not publish economic data in any detail, and what is published rarely conforms to international standards. Raul Castro is more open to liberalising the economy whilst still retaining communist values. BMI values GDP at US$79.2bn in 2013, equal to US$7,044 per capita. Growth in recent years has been moderate, maintained in part by strong prices for raw material exports and subsidised oil from Venezuela. Cuba has consistently blamed the USA for its poor economic performance, citing the US trade embargo as a major cause of its continuing poverty. The US response has been that Cuba's communist economic system is to blame, and that only internal reform will improve the situation. Both sides are almost certainly correct, adding to the intractability of US-Cuban relations. Venezuela and China have become important trade partners, but the USSR was the principal trading partner prior to the late 1980s. The Soviet Union was eager to maintain a communist foothold in the area, and provided large amounts of aid to Cuba. This ended abruptly when the USSR collapsed. The Cuban economy collapsed with it, by official estimates shrinking by 34.8% during the 1990-1993 period.
The medical device market is heavily reliant on imports but, Raul Castro, who came to power in February 2008, has made a consolidated effort to cut import expenditure. In US dollar terms, imports for the latest 12 months to March 2013 rose by 2.3% over the previous 12 months, reaching US$81.6mn. Diagnostic imaging grew the fastest at 71.1%, followed by patient aids (58.1%) and orthopaedics & prosthetics (4.1%). Dental products, however, experienced the highest fall, at -37.6%, followed by other medical devices (-17.5%) and consumables (-10.0%). Relations between the USA and Cuba are marginally warmer. That said, US companies cannot directly supply the market because of the trade embargo. The US embargo does not really hurt Cuba because alternative products are available from other countries, particularly from China and the EU-27 countries.
Cuba usually exports a small amount of medical devices, although the amount fluctuates each year. The reason for the fluctuating export level is the rise and fall in exports to Venezuela. In US dollar terms, medical device exports for the latest 12 months to March 2013 rose by 48.3% over the previous 12 months, reaching US$17.5mn. Consumables and other medical devices had strong growth, whilst the remaining export product areas registered high falls. Comparatively, Cuba registered the highest export level in 2006, when US$104.6mn was exported, mostly to Venezuela.
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