Cuba asked international companies on Monday to invest more than $8 billion in the island as it attempts to kick-start a centrally planned economy starved for cash and hamstrung by inefficiency.

Foreign Commerce Minister Rodrigo Malmierca Diaz announced a list of 246 potential projects that would cost $8.7 billion to build, from a pig farm to an auto plant. The menu of possible investments is a key step in a push for foreign capital that includes the relaxation of investment restrictions and the creation of a special trade zone around a new deep-water port west of Havana.

"Cuba is pushing strongly to take advantage of the benefits associated with foreign investment to stimulate development," Malmierca said.

Despite the push, foreigners at Havana's International Fair, the country's main economic promotional event, described Cuba as a place that still makes investors deeply nervous. Many basic supplies are lacking and simple decisions take weeks or months for approval from overlapping government agencies...



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