Cubans don't pay their debts - Geordin Hill-Lewis

DA MP questions why we're bailing out foreign regime, when need is so great at home

Cuban bailout: Minister Davies must account to Parliament

The South African government has wasted R600 million on sustaining the failed Cuban state, including what government has called a "solidarity grant". This follows a R1.4 billion Cuban bailout that President Zuma authorised in December 2010.

When the Parliamentary session reconvenes, the Democratic Alliance (DA) will request that the Minister of Trade and Industry, Rob Davies, appear before Parliament to explain what economic objectives are achieved by this decision. We want to know how this cash injection for Cuba will help the millions of South Africans who live below the breadline.

Cuba has a tiny economy and little to offer South Africa by way of trade. Our trade with Cuba is unlikely to ever exceed R100 million per year. And at the same time, we have our own massive domestic problems in housing, energy, infrastructure, unemployment and a host of other areas. It is difficult to justify giving the Cuban regime R2 billion in handouts when our own people are suffering daily.

The R600 million Minister Davies handed out on Friday consisted of credit write-offs, new credit lines and some cash payments. It also includes a R100 million "solidarity grant", which will not need to be paid back to South Africa. 

The Cuban regime has a long track record of failing to pay back our loans. In 2010, South Africa had to write off R1.1 billion in bad Cuban debt, and on Friday we wrote off another R250 million in bad debt.

It is a tragic irony that a portion of the Cuban handout is earmarked to promote food security in Cuba, when our own food security is under threat here at home. We have recently been forced to import maize at a very high price, affecting millions of South Africans who rely on maize-based products as staple food.

The time has come for South Africa to invest in strategic partnerships that deliver prosperity for our people. Maintaining symbolic friendships at enormous costs do not help the South African people. 

Statement issued by Geordin Hill-Lewis, DA Shadow Deputy Minister of Trade & Industry, February 6 2012

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