Statements by Ana Teresa Igarza Martínez, General Director of the Office of Mariel’s Special Development Zone (ZEDM by its acronym in Spanish) focused on the advancement in ZEDM’s infrastructure, the opportunities it has for Cuban entities and on possible investments.
The official noted that the first part of the Zone for Logistic Activities will be finished by June 30, as well as the railroad with a modern double track that will join ZEDM with the national railroad.
“This will reduce costs of the imports coming through Mariel’s harbor in terms of the transportation and distribution in the domestic economy”, Igarza explained. She also talked about ZEDM’s current objectives and future perspectives.
“We are doing our best to continue the construction works. We are working on the draft designs of the first parcels and their construction will begin with the culmination of the railroad works, when that labor force will start working on the movements of land and the north-south road. There will be a road from the roundabout that gives access to the container terminal to the north that will join the center of the Development Zone to the high technology area and the area reserved for oil.
We are preparing the parcels for the first investors to settle in the fields of food and agriculture, high technology and traditional industries, sectors which have already caught the interest of some companies. We are also working in an area for investors in renewable energy, in this case, in photovoltaic panels which will contribute with the national power generation and will be in charge of the generation of electricity to be used in ZEDM”
Investment, a key factor
Foreign investment is a key factor for the development of the project; however, Igarza believes it is vital to achieve simple coexistence and cooperation between national and foreign enterprises.
“We are trying to attract foreign investors and relate them with Cuban enterprises. In this regard, the speed and professionalism of national entrepreneurs is essential so that investors can join the process. Globalization has led big companies to establish monopolies and succeeding in inserting the Cuban company demands the professionalism of its staff in order to achieve positive results.
For that reason, ZEDM’s Office gets in touch with bodies from the Central Administration of the State and business groups that are being created today, which have more autonomy as to decision-making. We want to attract foreign investors and companies in order to create international economic associations.
We need Cuban enterprises to be more dynamic, to identify which are its strengths and its weaknesses and thus generate actions to reduce its weaknesses by means of its strengths. One of the weaknesses of the Cuban enterprises is a deficient technology. Yet, this is overcome with some of its strengths: qualified personnel and a market. It is necessary to assure links with foreign enterprises that can provide us the know-how, the technology and management means”.
Igarza highlighted the need to reinforce our strengths: “We have to keep in mind that the socialist state-owned enterprise is still the main project for the development of socialism in Cuba, but we have to shape it up to par with international standards by implementing better practices.”
As to possible investors, she points out that, although they have received hundreds of applications, today they have 23 projects immersed in the process of the preparation of documents. Some of those are Spain, France, Italy, Germany, Brazil, China and Russia.
“This doesn’t mean we have stopped. We are trying to attract another kind of investments to generate more productions in ZEDM”.
Igarza explained that some of the main sectors that will benefit from the investments are: renewable energy, food and agriculture, traditional industries (motor, heavy, and packing industries) and the light industry.
“There is a project that focuses on the agricultural activity. It is developed by a joint venture and a Cuban enterprise from the western province of Artemisa. There are some others focused on the production of grooming products and medical equipment, mostly prosthesis and wheelchairs”, said the official and added:
“There are projects with memorandums of understanding between Cuban and Brazilian enterprises. Brazil, in addition to collaborating in the construction of the harbor and having granted a credit to the exporter (which brought Odebrecht in as builder) has been working systematically with us to make other projects come true”.
Regarding national proposals, Igarza pointed out Mariel’s Container Terminal as the first user of ZEDM. It is a Cuban enterprise that employs the professional services of an internationally renowned company.
Other potential enterprises from Artemisa to invest in ZEDM are a cement factory, a thermoelectric, agricultural centers and the Hydraulic Resource Enterprise.
“The development of the infrastructure and the parcels will have seven services: electricity, gas, weak currents (including info-communications and data), recycling and wastes collection, treatment of residuals and water. These elements are essential for investors to settle properly”.
Projections and new opportunities
Not only state-owned and foreign actors can participate in ZEDM’s economic activity. Cooperatives and the self-employment sector can take part in it as long as they meet the requirements.
“Self-employed workers who would like to enjoy ZEDM’s benefits can go to ZEDM’s Office as long as their projects are in accordance with ZEDM’s objectives; I mean, they should generate employment, replace imports, generate aggregate value, uses clean technologies… One way or the other, they will be rendering services to ZEDM and they will develop activities that can generate incomes for the country. We have no objections in analyzing any project arising from the self-employment sector.
Right now, the Office has been notified about some applications –mainly from cooperatives– for rendering construction services. In this first stage, we have considered that for now they can settle there as a means of production acknowledged by the State without being a user, though in the future they might settle as such. The key element is to increase productive activities and then start generating services”.
ZEDM will not be fully devoted to production activities. There is a plan, which will take longer, for leisure activities.
“We must be up to par with other special zones in the world in terms of combining recreation and productive activities. We have reserved the first 43 kilometers for industrial development and we are certain that in those 465.4 square kilometers we have to leave some space for leisure, tourism and real state activities, which will improve conditions for investors.
Nonetheless, we are reviewing projects; we are immersed in the hiring of a foreign company that will present us a detailed project on the area’s regional planning in order to guarantee the implementation of the best international practices in ZEDM”.
Images: Mariel’s Container Terminal Head Office, in Artemisa, Cuba, on May 23, 2014. By: Roberto Morejón (AIN).