Czech member of Parliament to Cuba: Add cigars to shipment of rum

A member of the Czech Parliament, Tomáš Zdechovský, has suggested that Cuba add cigars to its shipments of rum to sweeten the deal and repay the debt faster.

“I applaud this wonderful idea,” writes Zdechovský in a tongue-in-cheek article in the Parliamentary Record. “I look forward to the day when Cuban rum will flood our market and we drink a Cuba libre every day. The Cubans should throw in some cigars to amortize the debt faster and that agreement would be better for both parties.”

Tomáš Zdechovský

However, “whether with cigars or without them, the main thing is that the debt payments should not be in anything as terrible as Cuban oranges. I remember them from the days of communism and they were really awful. Rum is a better option.”

Besides, Zdechovský points out, Czech civilians would benefit directly and immediately from a steady supply of rum.

“If we insisted on money, the State would squander it on the construction of the D-8 Highway,” the deputy writes. “The rum option is far better because it enriches the lives of so many of us.”

As of Dec. 31, the Finance Ministry had not responded to Cuba’s offer.

CUBA OFFERS TO PAY CZECH FOREIGN DEBT WITH RUM, PHARMACEUTICALS

(Dec. 15, 2016) – In a novel way to settle a foreign debt, Cuba has offered to pay the Czech Republic 276 million dollars worth of rum and pharmaceutical drugs, Czech deputy finance minister Lenka Dupakova announced Thursday (Dec. 15) in Prague.

The debt was incurred between 1972 and 1991, when Cuba was member of COMECON, the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance created by the Soviet Union for its socialist and communist allies. The republic of Slovakia, which at the time was part of Czechoslovakia, will be asked to join the dialogue with Cuba, Dupakova said.

The deputy minister described Cuba’s proposal as “an interesting option.” The type of rum offered by Havana is not expected to be top-of-the-line but it would be acceptable by the Czech authorities.

Czech deputy finance minister Lenka Dupakova.

“We are talking about virtually unknown brands that could be good, but their appearance on the market should be accompanied by suitable advertising,” she told reporters, suggesting that the promotion costs should be factored in. According to Czech statistics, 892 tons of Cuban rum were delivered to the Czech Republic in 2015, at a cost of 53 million crowns (about 2.1 million dollars).

Cuba is also offering to pay in pharmaceuticals, including its much-promoted medication for diabetic feet ulcers, Heberprot-P, Dupakova said.

“The Cubans have already made a number of proposals to us and we are currently consulting [our] State Administration for the Control of Drugs,” she added. Any foreign pharmaceuticals brought into the country must undergo stringent safety tests for certification.

“The main problem with the delivery of Cuban medicines is that they have no European certification,” the deputy minister said. By contrast, Cuban rum is a well known product in Europe and can be easily marketed, she added.

Finance Ministry spokesman Michal Zurovec told reporters that negotiations between Havana and Prague are just beginning, and “the Czech Republic would prefer that part of the debt be paid in cash.”

According to The Washington Post, Cuba’s external debt at the end of 2014 was “about $24.7 billion, or 31 percent of the countryís gross domestic product.” Russia wrote off $32 billion in Soviet-era debt in 2014, and “last year, a group of 14 nations, mostly wealthy European countries, jointly decided to give Cuba ‘extraordinary debt relief,’ forgiving some $8.5 billion in debt while restructuring the repayment of remaining debts of about $2.6 billion over the next 18 years.”

[Also read in Progreso Weekly “Economist’s advice to Czechs: Take the Cuban rum and sell it.“]

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