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Can Biotech Save Cuba?

With unemployment set to triple in 2011, can biotech grow jobs along with an enterpreneurial spirit on the island?

Cuba is facing a tsunami of unemployment. Ray Suarez, of PBS Newshour's Global Health Suarez reports that half-a-million government employees will be laid off over the next year. And Cuba thinks biotech is going to save them.

More than 100 jobs will be open now to private business, a sector where the Cuban economy hopes to soak up half-a-million government employees that are due to be laid off over the next year. But one hundred jobs is hardly going to make a dent in future unemployment.

Until now, Cuba's unemployment rate has been low—1.7 percent in 2009 according to the CIA World Factbook. But with a population of just under 12,000,000, the layoffs will take unemployment to almost 6 percent, more than tripling the number of unemployed from195,000 to 695,000.

Still, Suarez is optimistic after visiting a large biotech company on the island

Cuba had a surplus of really superbly educated researchers, technicians, scientists. And they channeled them into biotech, genetic engineering, searching for ways to synthesize new drugs, create new compounds, create new molecules. And it's remarkable, really, to see the advances that Cuba has made in this area. It's already the third largest contributor to the national bottom line just behind nickel production and tourism.


While it's a heavy burden on the biotech industry to be the great white hope for Cuba's employment woes, their potential inexpensive drug solutions may attract the world market to Cuba. Then Cuba will really have to rethink Communism's place in the Cuban economy.

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