Cuba outscores peers on World Bank social measures

Monday, April 30, 2001

The World Bank on Monday voiced recognition that Communist-run Cuba, barred from the multilateral loans enjoyed by most other developing nations, scores better on social measures than most of them.

Statistics in the bank's World Development Indicators report, issued during its spring meetings over the weekend, show Cubans live longer than other Latin Americans, including residents of the U.S. Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.

In Latin America, the island's literacy levels are only equaled by the middle-income nations of Argentina and Uruguay.

"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," World Bank President James Wolfensohn said.

"So I have no hesitation in acknowledging that they've done a good job, and it does not embarrass me to do it," he told a news conference.

"It was not with our advice but it was not without or advice either. We just have nothing to do with them. They should be congratulated for what they've
done," he said.

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 show-case market economy 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 thousand live births, much lower than the rest of Latin America, including Puerto Rico.

Only 3 percent 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.

Cuba withdrew from the World Bank and its sister lending agency, the International Monetary Fund, on November 14, 1959, less than a year after the revolution led by Fidel Castro. And it still remains outside these so-called Bretton Woods institutions, along with North Korea, Libya and Myanmar.

"We would love to have an enlargement of our constituency, if that's the point," said IMF Deputy Managing Director Eduardo Aninat. "In the present world there is a need for sustaining policy dialogues constructively."