Economic and Political Overview

flag Cuba Cuba: Economic and Political Overview

In this page: Economic Indicators | Foreign Trade in Figures | Sources of General Economic Information | Political Outline | COVID-19 Country Response


Economic Indicators

For the latest updates on the key economic responses from governments to address the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, please consult the IMF's policy tracking platform Policy Responses to COVID-19.

The Cuban economy is still affected by the embargo imposed by the United States. While Washington was expected to loosen its sanctions under President Joe Biden, his approach towards Cuba has been tougher than former administrations, as he further tightened the trade and travel restrictions that were put in place by Donald Trump. In 2022, the Cuban economy recorded an estimated GDP growth of 2%, and it is expected to continue recovering in 2023, when GDP should grow 3% (Reuters).

Cuba is not transparent with its public accounts. At the beginning of 2021, the Cuban government implemented a currency and exchange rate unification, which should yield positive results in the long term. In the short term, though, the policy aggravated some economic issues in the country, most notably causing a huge increase in inflation, which reached an estimated 500% in 2021. However, the initial effects of currency unification have been fading, and the country's inflation rate decreased to 39.07% in 2022. Furthermore, public debt also decreased in 2022, to an estimated 118.9% of Cuban GDP (compared to 151.1% in 2021). Public spending, which is not very flexible given the large share of operating costs, is expected to increase with the rise in civil servants' salaries and a pension system. The CIA estimated that health, education and social assistance represent around 50% of the budget expenses. Despite the lack of reliable data, the government's willingness to continue to invest heavily in the economy suggests that the fiscal deficit should increase. The country's debt should therefore continue to grow. Although the pandemic has significantly impacted the Cuban economy, especially as revenues from the tourism sector collapsed, the fiscal measures implemented by the government have been effective in boosting economic activity, which has been gradually recovering. Overall, Cuba’s response to the pandemic has been one of the most effective in the Caribbean. However, the crisis hindered Cuba’s progress in eradicating poverty and food insecurity in the country.

Despite a low unemployment rate (2.2% in 2018, ILOSTAT. Latest available data), the living standards of the Cuban population today remain very low. It should be noted that while official unemployment rates are low, unofficial estimates are about double the official rate. Additionally, Cuba remains heavily dependent on food and energy imports, as it imports 80% of its food consumption. The country's situation is uncertain, as reforms are giving an increasingly significant role to private companies. This has led to pilfering, a robust black market, and brain drain.

Main Sectors of Industry

Cuba heavily depends on its natural resources to run its economy. Despite its small size, Cuba is rich in natural resources. Nickel is highly important for the country, as its leading natural resource. Cobalt is also abundant on the island, making Cuba one of the highest producers and exporters of both nickel and cobalt in the world. Cuba also has offshore oil and natural gas reserves, mainly in the northern part of the island. Sugarcane has been Cuba’s main crop for over 300 years. Furthermore, agriculture represents 0.9% of GDP and employs 17.4% of the population. Its main crops are still sugar and sugarcane (12.5 billion tons of sugarcane are produced every year), which take up a third of the cultivated land. Tobacco is the country’s second largest export crop. Other agricultural products include citrus, coffee, corn, rice, potatoes, beans, bananas, soy, cotton, and livestock. In 2022, the agricultural sector was negatively impacted by droughts, intense storms, and raising sea levels.

Industry represents 23.3% of GDP and employs 17.1% of the population. It focuses on agricultural products, production of cement, textiles, tobacco, and agricultural machinery. Cuba also has significant mineral resources (particularly of nickel, cobalt, gold, and copper) and is currently conducting hydrocarbon exploration. The cigar industry is one of the leading industries in the country and it is highly dependent on tourism, as tourists are the leading costumers of the product. Therefore, the industry was positively impacted by the increasing number of tourists visiting the island in 2022.

The main sector of activity in Cuba is the services sector, which represents 75% of GDP and employs 65.5% of the active population. Its significance is strongly related to the development of tourism, which leads the service sector alongside retail. For a long time, tourism has been pivoting the economy from total collapse and the sector boomed after Barack Obama mended US ties with Cuba in 2016. Although the tourism industry was hit the hardest during the COVID-19 pandemic, tourism rates have been significantly increasing, which positively impacts the economy as a whole.

Breakdown of Economic Activity By Sector Agriculture Industry Services
Employment By Sector (in % of Total Employment) 17.4 17.1 65.5
Value Added (in % of GDP) 0.9 23.3 75.0
Value Added (Annual % Change) -13.2 -6.8 4.1

Source: World Bank - Latest available data.


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Monetary Indicators 20152016201720182019
Cuban Peso (CUP) - Average Annual Exchange Rate For 1 MUR

Source: World Bank - Latest available data.


Find out all the exchange rates daily on our service Currency Converter.

Indicator of Economic Freedom


The Economic freedom index measure ten components of economic freedom, grouped into four broad categories or pillars of economic freedom: Rule of Law (property rights, freedom from corruption); Limited Government (fiscal freedom, government spending); Regulatory Efficiency (business freedom, labour freedom, monetary freedom); and Open Markets (trade freedom, investment freedom, financial freedom). Each of the freedoms within these four broad categories is individually scored on a scale of 0 to 100. A country’s overall economic freedom score is a simple average of its scores on the 10 individual freedoms.

World Rank:
Regional Rank:

Economic freedom in the world (interactive map)
Source: Index of Economic Freedom, Heritage Foundation


Business environment ranking


The business rankings model measures the quality or attractiveness of the business environment in the 82 countries covered by The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Country Forecast reports. It examines ten separate criteria or categories, covering the political environment, the macroeconomic environment, market opportunities, policy towards free enterprise and competition, policy towards foreign investment, foreign trade and exchange controls, taxes, financing, the labour market and infrastructure.

World Rank:

Source: The Economist Intelligence Unit - Business Environment Rankings 2020-2024


Country Risk

See the country risk analysis provided by Coface.


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Foreign Trade in Figures

According to the Cuban Chamber of Commerce and the World Bank, Cuba is not only a country that is open to foreign trade, but it is also highly dependant on it - which represents 80% of the GDP. According to the latest available data from Comtrade, in 2006 the island mainly exported medicaments (7.3%), cigars (7.3%), powered aircraft (3%), crustaceans (1.9%), and medical apparatus (1.4%), while Cuba mainly imported electric generating sets and rotary converters (4.8%), refrigerators (2.9%), electric filament or discharge lamps (1.8%), rice (1.7%), and medical apparatus (1.7%). However, the latest data available from the Observatory of Economic Complexity estimates that in 2020 Cuba mainly imported poultry meat (5.4%), wheat (3.4%), soyabean meal (3.1%), corn (2.7%), and concentrated milk (2.5%), while the country exported rolled tobacco (23.8%), raw sugar (17.5%), nickel mattes (11.1%), hard liquor (8%), and zinc ore (6.5%).

Cuba's main trade partners are China, Spain, Italy, Germany, and the Netherlands. The embargo imposed by the United States has long been an obstacle to Cuba's foreign trade. And even though the Obama administration lifted the Cold War embargo policy off of Cuba in 2016, former-president Trump suspended the policy for unconditional sanctions relief, saying that he would work on a "better deal" between the two countries. However, U.S.-Cuba relations are expected to improve under the current administration, as president Biden has attested he intends to reverse the Trump's Cuban policies. Located at the crossroads between Latin America and the United States, Cuba is the largest island in the Caribbean and maintains strong economic and financial relations with Venezuela - its energy partner. With the current economic crisis in Venezuela, oil shipments have fallen sharply and are now down by around 40% compared to 2014 levels. Relations with China, Cuba's most important trade partner, have been intensifying for the past decade. Furthermore, Beijing purchases much of the Cuban nickel, which has overtaken sugar as the country's leading export commodity.

Cuba's lack of transparency remains an obstacle towards accurately accounting its trade balance. According to the WTO data, Cuba is a net importer of goods and, in 2021, imports of goods were equal to USD 8.4 billion, while exports totalled USD 1.4 billion; thus leading to a negative trade balance of USD 7 billion. Moreover, the imports of services in 2019 (latest available data) were USD 2 billion, by far inferior to the exports, which totalled USD 10.2 billion - resulting on a services trade balance of USD 8.2 billion.

Foreign Trade Indicators 20172018201920202021
Imports of Goods (million USD) 10,12011,4849,9018,1658,486
Exports of Goods (million USD) 2,9802,3732,0622,2001,498
Imports of Services (million USD) 2,1182,1952,02800
Exports of Services (million USD) 11,37911,76410,24000
Imports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) -1.6-2.0-2.9-7.6-4.7
Exports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) 0.0-2.4-4.6-20.5-9.1
Imports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 11.712.610.67.545.1
Exports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 14.614.512.28.234.9
Foreign Trade (in % of GDP)

Source: WTO – World Trade Organisation ; World Bank , Latest Available Data


To go further, check out our service Import Export Flows.


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Sources of General Economic Information

Official list of ministries and their links (in Spanish)
Ministry of Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Ministry of Finance and Prices (in Spanish)
Ministry of Industries
Statistical Office
National Bureau of Statistics and Information (in Spanish)
Central Bank
Central Bank of Cuba
Stock Exchange
The Havana Stock Exchange closed in 1959 with the Cuban Revolution.
Search Engines
Google Cuba
Sitios Cubanos (Spanish only)
Economic Portals
Cuban portal - general (Spanish Only)
The Cuban Economy

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Political Outline

Current Political Leaders
President: Miguel Diaz-Canel (since April 19th, 2018)
Vice President: Salvador Valdes Mesa (since April 19th, 2018)
Prime minister: Manuel Marrero Cruz (since December 21st, 2019)
Next Election Dates
Legislative: March 26th, 2023
Main Political Parties
The Cuban Constitution only recognises one legal party: the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) whose first secretary is has been Miguel Díaz-Canel since April 2021.
However, there are other - unrecognised - parties in the country. Most of these parties receive funds and support from organisations based in Miami, and are connected to anti-Communist organisations and agencies of the U.S. government, even though it is illegal for a political organisation to receive funds from a foreign government under Cuban law.
Type of State
Marxist–Leninist socialist republic.
Executive Power
The President is the head of state and is indirectly elected by the National Assembly for a term of five years, which can be renewed once. The Prime Minister is the head of government and chairman of the Council of Ministers. The President has executive powers, is the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, and controls most aspects of Cuban life through the Cuban Communist Party (PCC). The First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party is the de facto leader of Cuba, as that is the highest office in the country, followed by the President, and the Prime Minister.
Legislative Power
Legislative power is unicameral and is vested in the National Assembly of People's Power (Asamblea Nacional del Poder Popular). Its 605 members are directly elected by absolute majority vote and serve a term of 5 years. Candidates are elected without formal party involvement, though elected assemblies predominantly consist of members of the dominant party alongside non-affiliated candidates. Assembly members are charged with selecting the Council of State, which consists of one president, one first vice president, five vice presidents, one secretary and 27 other members. The National Assembly is also responsible for deciding on the constitutionality of laws and making changes to the Constitution, if necessary. In July 2019, the National Assembly passed a new legislation which reduces the number of members from 605 to 474; it will be effective with the 2023 general election.

Indicator of Freedom of the Press


The world rankings, published annually, measures violations of press freedom worldwide. It reflects the degree of freedom enjoyed by journalists, the media and digital citizens of each country and the means used by states to respect and uphold this freedom. Finally, a note and a position are assigned to each country. To compile this index, Reporters Without Borders (RWB) prepared a questionnaire incorporating the main criteria (44 in total) to assess the situation of press freedom in a given country. This questionnaire was sent to partner organisations,150 RWB correspondents, journalists, researchers, jurists and human rights activists. It includes every kind of direct attacks against journalists and digital citizens (murders, imprisonment, assault, threats, etc.) or against the media (censorship, confiscation, searches and harassment etc.).

World Rank:

Indicator of Political Freedom


The Indicator of Political Freedom provides an annual evaluation of the state of freedom in a country as experienced by individuals. The survey measures freedom according to two broad categories: political rights and civil liberties. The ratings process is based on a checklist of 10 political rights questions (on Electoral Process, Political Pluralism and Participation, Functioning of Government) and 15 civil liberties questions (on Freedom of Expression, Belief, Associational and Organizational Rights, Rule of Law, Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights). Scores are awarded to each of these questions on a scale of 0 to 4, where a score of 0 represents the smallest degree and 4 the greatest degree of rights or liberties present. The total score awarded to the political rights and civil liberties checklist determines the political rights and civil liberties rating. Each rating of 1 through 7, with 1 representing the highest and 7 the lowest level of freedom, corresponds to a range of total scores.

Not Free
Political Freedom:

Political freedom in the world (interactive map)
Source: Freedom in the World Report, Freedom House


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COVID-19 Country Response

Travel restrictions
Regularly updated travel information for all countries with regards to Covid-19 related entry regulations, flight bans, test and vaccines requirements is available on TravelDoc Infopage.
To find information about the current travel regulations, including health requirements, it is also advised to consult Travel Regulations Map provided and updated on a daily basis by IATA.
Import & export restrictions
A general overview of trade restrictions which were adopted by different countries during the COVID-19 pandemic is available on the International Trade Centre's COVID-19 Temporary Trade Measures webpage.
Economic recovery plan
For the general overview of the key economic policy responses to the COVID-19 pandemic (fiscal, monetary and macroeconomic) undertaken by the government of Cuba, please consult the country's dedicated section in the IMF’s Policy Tracker platform.
Support plan for businesses
For an evaluation of impact of the Covid pandemic on SMEs and an inventory of country responses to foster SME resilience, refer to the OECD's SME Covid-19 Policy Responses document.
You can also consult the World Bank's Map of SME-Support Measures in Response to COVID-19.


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Latest Update: September 2023