Cash-strapped Cuba says toilet paper running short

Fri Aug 7, 2009 3:00pm EDT
 
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HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuba, in the grip of a serious economic crisis, is running short of toilet paper and may not get sufficient supplies until the end of the year, officials with state-run companies said on Friday.

Officials said they were lowering the prices of 24 basic goods to help Cubans get through the difficulties provoked in part by the global financial crisis and three destructive hurricanes that struck the island last year.

Cuba's financial reserves have been depleted by increased spending for imports and reduced export income, which has forced the communist-led government to take extraordinary measures to keep the economy afloat.

"The corporation has taken all the steps so that at the end of the year there will be an important importation of toilet paper," an official with state conglomerate Cimex said on state-run Radio Rebelde.

The shipment will enable the state-run company "to supply this demand that today is presenting problems," he said.

Cuba both imports toilet paper and produces its own, but does not currently have enough raw materials to make it, he said.

One of the measures taken to address the cash crunch is a 20 percent cut in imports, which in recent days has become evident in the reduction of goods in state-run stores.

Cuba imports about 60 percent of its food.

Despite the shortages, prices will be cut between 5 percent and 27 percent for some food, drugs and personal hygiene products, officials said.   Continued...