* Deficit for first half of year was $409 million
* Deficit of $1.73 billion had been forecast
* Number of tourists up about 1 percent after early dip
HAVANA, July 29 Cuba had some rare good news
for its troubled economy on Thursday when the government
reported a lower budget deficit than expected and a small
increase in the number of tourists visiting the island in the
first half of the year.
The first-half deficit totaled $409 million instead of the
$1.73 billion originally forecast, Minister of Finance and
Prices Lina Pedraza told a National Assembly committee.
Revenue for the period was $21.2 billion, while $21.6
billion was spent, Pedraza said, according to state-run media.
In 2008, the last year for which figures are available,
Cuba's budget deficit was $4.2 billion, according to the
National Statistics Office.
Cuba has been cutting imports to reduce spending, but
Pedraza was said to have attributed the reduction in red ink
primarily to more income from taxes and social security
Cuba was hit hard by three hurricanes in 2008, the global
financial crisis and reduced prices for some of its key
A cash crunch forced it to freeze the Cuban bank accounts
for many foreign businesses and suspend payments to many
In the first two months of the year, tourism, which is one
of the communist-led island's top sources of income, was down
3.4 percent from 2009, but began turning around in March.
The National Statistics Office said on Thursday that Cuba
ended the first half of the year with 1,389,712 tourists having
visited, a gain of 13,519, or about 1 percent, over the same
period of 2009.
Slightly more than 2.4 million tourists came to the island
last year, bringing in more than $2 billion, or 20 percent of
Cuba's foreign exchange income.
(Reporting by Nelson Acosta; editing by Jeff Franks and