While Cuba has a relatively high level of development compared to other Caribbean countries, ranking 59 out of 187 countries on the United Nations Development Programme's 2012 human development index, it continues to face many development challenges.
Food security is a priority for the Government of Cuba. Low agricultural productivity and weak production chains make the country highly dependent, importing about 80 percent of its domestic food requirements in 2009. Cuba was affected by the global economic downturn, which saw the country's exports drop considerably.
Cuba's vulnerability to natural disasters was seen in 2008 when it experienced a series of devastating hurricanes and storms, causing severe losses for the economy and infrastructure (US$10 billion, or 20 percent of the gross domestic product). On October 25, 2012, Hurricane Sandy severely affected the city of Santiago de Cuba, the second largest city in the country. With a population of 500,000, Santiago de Cuba is of key economic importance in the eastern region.
The Government of Cuba has acknowledged that its centralized political structure poses a barrier to economic productivity. Although Cuba has internationally recognized education and health systems, most Cuban institutions suffer from inefficiencies. To engage in the global economy, Cuba needs assistance in developing modern business practices and increasing accountability and transparency of public institutions.
In April 2011, the Government of Cuba adopted new policies that are shifting its centralized economy to a more market-based and decentralized economic model. Cuba is also reducing the size of the public sector (an estimated 1,000,000 jobs will be cut), and decentralizing some decision-making to lower levels of government and to the emerging private sector (including new forms of cooperatives and self-employed workers).
There are signs of change: the government is allowing individuals to buy and sell property, allowing individuals to travel more freely within and outside the country, leasing state-owned land to farmers, and expanding cooperatives. In January 2013, a new tax law came into effect that requires the collection of income tax and other forms of taxes.
Cuba has met the Millennium Development Goal targets for achieving universal primary education; promoting gender equality and empowering women; and reducing child mortality. The country is on track to meet the targets for eradicating extreme poverty and hunger; improving maternal health and halting the spread of HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases.
Cuba's five easternmost provinces have higher levels of poverty than the rest of the country because they are less developed and less accessible, and they remain vulnerable to natural disasters.
Canada maintains a continuing dialogue with the Government of Cuba on development priorities. Canada supports the interest that Cuban officials have expressed in maintaining social gains during a period of economic liberalization. Throughout these discussions, Canada seeks to respond to Cuban development priorities in ways that also correspond to Canadian values and expertise.
Canada's international development program in Cuba is aligned with several of the priorities of the Government of Cuba, in particular increasing agricultural productivity and improving the efficient and accountable delivery of public services. For this reason, Canada's program in Cuba focuses on helping the country increase sustainable economic growth and food security. This includes increasing the diversity, availability and sustainability of food production, and more effective, efficient and accountable public services delivery for all Cubans.
The Government of Canada works with Canadian organizations and trusted multilateral partners to support ministries and institutions that promote economic growth and that play a key role in implementing Cuba's economic reform process.
Canada's support is increasing agricultural diversification, productivity and competitiveness, emphasizing the poorer provinces. Canada is helping Cuba strengthen small businesses and cooperatives by building skills and promoting more integrated and efficient production chains.
Although Cuba has not endorsed the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness (PDF, 317 KB, 23 pages), the country has applied some of its principles in terms of ensuring mutual accountability of donor and recipient organizations and taking ownership of the results of development activities. As one of the top four donors in Cuba, Canada will promote greater donor coordination and harmonization.
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