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February 2017

What comes to your mind when you hear the word “Cuba”? Probably the sound of conga drums, colourful American classic cars from the 1950s, sweet rum, the aroma of manually produced cigars, lively nightclubs and friendly Cubans dancing in the streets. However this tropical island has also a murky underside, which manifests with poverty, empty shelves in shops, the collapsing political system and the emerging new one. What will it look like? The question is all the more important, because it's certain that following the death of Fidel Castro, the island will soon change its face.

Havana is positioned on the north coast of the 110,000 sq km island, great waves crashing into the Malecon promenade that faces the Straits of Florida. Although it has its own harbour, a new deep-water mega-port is being built in Mariel, 45km west of the city. A special economic zone will also be set up here, with the first international companies moving in at the start of 2016. It is forecast to create 70,000 jobs.

With a population of 11.2 million (two million in Havana), the annual GDP of Cuba was US$77 billion in 2013. Economic growth was 4 per cent in 2015, but forecasts for the future are a little less optimistic. It is predicted that GDP growth will slow sharply in 2016-17 owing to reduced export income and aid from Venezuela, but better ties with the US will facilitate a gradual pick-up in 2018-21. To find out more about what the future might bring for Cuba, read our cover article. Enjoy your reading!

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