May 2, 2001
World Bank heaps praise on Cuba
THE SCOTSMAN, Foreign Desk
CUBA was praised yesterday by the president of the World
Bank in recognition of the Caribbean island’s achievement in
providing some of Latin America’s highest standards of health
care and education without a penny of foreign funding.
"Cuba has done a great job on education and health and if you
judge the country by education and health they’ve done a
terrific job," the bank’s chief, James Wolfensohn, said at a
press conference in Washington.
"So I have no hesitation in acknowledging that they’ve done a
good job, and it does not embarrass me to do it. They should
be congratulated for what they have done," he added.
Statistics in the bank’s World Development Indicators report,
issued during its spring meetings over the weekend, show
that Cubans live longer than other Latin Americans, including
residents of the US Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.
At the same time, the island’s literacy levels are only
equalled by the middle-income nations of Argentina and
The bank’s data shows life expectancy in Cuba is 76 years.
Among Latin American countries, that is second only to Costa
Rica at 77. It equals the showcase market economy of Chile,
while it is ahead of Puerto Rico at 73 years; Argentina,
Uruguay and Mexico, where the average person lives for
72 years; and Brazil, which lags at 67 years.
Infant mortality in Cuba is seven deaths per 1,000 live
births, much lower than the rest of Latin America.
Only 3 per cent of Cuban males above the age of 15 years
cannot read, a literacy rate that is five times better than
Brazil and 16 times ahead of Haiti, the data shows.
Cuba withdrew from the World Bank and its sister lending
agency, the International Monetary Fund, in 1959, less
than a year after the revolution led by Fidel Castro.
It still remains outside these so-called Bretton Woods
institutions, along with North Korea, Libya and Burma.
At last month’s World Bank Summit of the Americas in Quebec,
Mr Wolfensohn said the Bank pledged support for Latin American
and Caribbean countries, proposing $12 to $16 billion in loans
and credits for the region over the next three years.
"About one in three people in Latin America and the Caribbean
lives on less than $2 a day," he said, emphasising that it was
up to governments to determine the priorities for World Bank
He singled out health and education for special attention.
"A full-scale attack on poverty requires investments in health
care and education, to build the human resources countries
need to compete."