Oil-rich Venezuela and Russia help ally Cuba, but its energy woes persist

Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel, right, and Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev at a joint press conference at the Revolution Palace in Havana on Thursday. Medvedev was in Cuba for an official visit. (AFP)
Updated 06 October 2019

Oil-rich Venezuela and Russia help ally Cuba, but its energy woes persist

  • Cuba’s oil production currently meets an estimated 40 percent of its needs

HAVANA: A flotilla of shipments from Venezuela gave Cuba some respite this week from crippling fuel shortages in the wake of tougher US sanctions, while Russia’s prime minister pledged during a visit to the island on Friday to help develop its energy sector.

But support from two of its closest allies looks unlikely to resolve Cuba’s energy problems and the government has extended many of the energy-saving measures it had introduced over the past month.

Havana warned on Sept. 11 it had not secured sufficient shipments of refined fuels, such as gasoline and diesel, for the rest of the month due to sanctions imposed by the administration of US President Donald Trump in retaliation for its support for Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

In response to the shortages, Cuba swiftly deepened austerity measures it had introduced since an economic meltdown in Venezuela, its principal supplier, choked off its energy imports.

Cuban authorities cut public transport last month, decreased production at some factories, and encouraged the use of more animal-powered vehicles and wood-fired ovens.

Venezuela responded by increasing oil shipments to its Caribbean ally, despite its own output issues and sanctions-related restrictions.

Since late September, at least eight tankers carrying some 3.83 million barrels of crude and fuel have been shipped from Venezuela, according to Refinitiv Eikon data and internal data from Venezuela’s state-run oil firm PDVSA. That represents a sharp increase from five vessels loaded with 1.98 million barrels during the first half of September.

Following the shipments, there are no longer multi-hour queues at Cuban gas stations for gasoline, although diesel remains elusive.

Transport officials on Wednesday said they would be upping the frequency of train and bus departures, although not yet restoring “normality” following the drastic cuts last month.

President Miguel Diaz-Canel celebrated that Cuba managed to avoid blackouts in September in an editorial in the Communist Party newspaper Granma entitled “No fear of the current juncture.”

The two-day official visit of Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, which concluded on Friday, also sent a signal the island is not alone.

Medvedev on Friday visited a horizontal oil well located in the Boca de Jaruco oil field in northern Cuba which is being developed by Russian and Cuban state-run companies Zarubezhneft and Cubapetroleo.

Zarubezhneft plans to drill 30 wells in two years there at a cost of 100 million euros, Russian state-owned news agency Sputnik wrote on Friday.

The two countries are working towards reducing Cuba’s dependence on energy imports by improving its energy efficiency and collaborating on oil exploration, a senior Russian government official told TASS news agency.

However, Medvedev did not announce any short-term measures to provide relief to the island during his visit.

Cuba’s oil production currently meets an estimated 40 percent of its needs. Nearly all the rest has been supplied by Venezuela for years under a barter agreement for Cuban medical services, with some imports from other allies like Algeria and Russia.

However, analysts say Venezuela and Cuba will struggle to keep beating ever-tightening US sanctions.


Saudi Arabia jumps up global talent league

Updated 18 min 7 sec ago

Saudi Arabia jumps up global talent league

  • The Kingdom rose five places in the annual survey

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia has jumped up the global league tables for the quality of its business executives, as measured by the International Institute for Management Development (IMD), the prestigious Swiss business school, in its 2019 World Talent Ranking.

The Kingdom rose five places in the annual survey, leapfrogging the UAE in 30th place for the first time and closing the gap on Qatar in 26th position.

The IMD’s improved rating for Saudi Arabia comes after the Kingdom jumped up the World Bank’s “doing business” ratings and an improved performance in the World Economic Forum’s global competitiveness rankings.

IMD said that Saudi Arabia showed improvements in the investment and development categories it judges, as well as readiness for economic and managerial change.

FASTFACT

1st

Switzerland was first placed in the IMD rankings, followed by Denmark and Sweden.

It also scored high on the availability of apprenticeships, the prioritization of employee training, access to specialist skills and the availability of senior managers with international experience and finance skills.

In terms of its appeal to executive talent, however, Saudi Arabia was further down the placings.

Jose Caballero, senior economist at the IMD competitiveness center, told Arab News that Saudi Arabia could improve its appeal by “encouraging its private sector to prioritize talent attraction and retention, as well as focusing on increasing the levels of worker motivation, and the quality of life it offers.”

He added: “The talent potential of Saudi Arabia is captured in one of the Vision 2030’s key themes: A vibrant society, with strong foundations, especially in relation to education.”

But despite spending a big proportion of its GDP on
education, expenditure per student is relatively low, as is the quality of secondary schools and teacher-pupil ratios. The Kingdom ranks comparatively low down the ratings for adult literacy, Caballero added.