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Cuba economic growth weak, president says, as lawmakers approve new constitution

Cuba’s National Assembly approved the country’s new draft constitution on Sunday, which paves the way for recognition of private businesses and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights.

The new constitution seeks to maintain Cuba’s one-party socialist system but institute a major government reorganisation. It will now be publicly debated through November before submission to a referendum.

The government is also attempting to make changes to its Soviet-style command economy, with the goal of creating “prosperous and sustainable” socialism.

After the vote, President Miguel Diaz-Canal said Cuba’s economy grew less than expected in the first half of 2018 and an ongoing liquidity crisis will force fresh belt tightening.

Since oil prices crashed in 2014 and Venezuela, the country’s closest ally and main economic partner and fuel supplier, began to struggle, foreign currency revenues and oil supplies have steadily fallen, forcing cuts in imports and energy use.

The economy grew 1.1 percent during the first half, Diaz-Canel said, compared with the 2 percent forecast by the government for 2018 and 1.6 percent growth last year.

Cuban economists estimate the country needs up to 3 percent annual growth to break even.

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