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Six months in, Cuba's first loans equal $14 million

First half of 2012 saw banks grant nearly 50,000 loans for an average of $290 apiece

AFP, Friday 20 Jul 2012
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Cuba said Thursday its banks had loaned out more than $14 million since the island's communist government first authorised the lenders to offer credit lines late last year.

The average amount borrowed -- among nearly 50,000 loans given in the first half of 2012 -- was about $290, or just over a year's earnings for many Cubans.
Most of the loans have been used to repair homes and purchase construction materials, said Central Bank President Ernesto Medina, quoted in local media.
He did not give details of the loans' financial terms, but he indicated that the guarantees required to obtain a loan would be raised.
Nevertheless, Cubans "will have greater access to credit," he said in comments published ahead of Monday's biannual meeting of the Cuban National Assembly.
Cuba's economy has been controlled by the state ever since the revolution that ended in 1959.
People traditionally turn to family and friends when they need a loan but the state introduced its new lending policy in December 2011, as part of a cautious overhaul of its Soviet-style economy.
Similar reforms, which seek to revitalise Cuba's centralised economy, began when Raul Castro took over from his older brother Fidel as president in 2006, at first on an acting basis, and then formally two years later.
Pay in Cuba tends to be meager -- on average about $20 a month -- but basic food items are subsidised, while health services and education are free.
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