Shopping Centers Today International

DEC 2015

Shopping Centers Today is the news magazine of the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC)

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Page 21 of 143

T H E C O M M O N A R E A 22 S C T / D E C E M B E R 2 0 1 5 "There are still many ob- stacles that block any rapid development." Mora said that the Obama administration has done everything legally possible to set the stage for business. "It takes two to tango, and the greater obstacles are on the other side," he said. For instance, Cuba's decayed infrastruc- ture is a hindrance; the electricity grid, roads, tele- communications, shipping ports and airports there are in no shape to handle busi- ness and tourism. Mora described Cuba's government as "clueless and confused" about business opportunities. Investors in Cuba also face a heap of red tape, Mora said. "Contracts take months to complete. There's no adequate admin- istrative structure to deal with this. There's no secu- rity for investors." Investing in real estate is not an option either. "Three or four years ago the Cuban gov- ernment started to allow the purchase and sale of private property. But it has had to halt the whole venture because of corruption. This could have been a source of income." With no consumer mar- ket, retailers are in no hurry to establish themselves in Cuba. With a population of 11 million people, the average monthly wage per person is about $20. But there is hope for the fu- ture, Mora insists, noting that the government there predicted a 4.7 percent in- crease in GDP for 2015. He says he has just one word of advice for potential inves- tors: "Patience." Retail developers face Cuba conundrum The world may be ready to do business with Cuba, but Cuba, it seems, is not ready to do business with the world. And it won't be ready anytime soon, according to Frank O. Mora, former U.S. deputy assistant secretary of Defense, and current director of Florida Interna- tional University's Kimberly Green Latin American and Caribbean Center. Speak- ing at the ICSC Caribbean Conference, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Mora was far less optimistic about current business opportunities in the Caribbean nation than many international developers and investors. "Right now, Cuba is in no condition to absorb all the attention it is receiv- ing. There is no climate for investment." The United States and Cuba normalized diplomatic relations and lessened restrictions for tourists in December 2014. And while the trade em- bargo on Cuba is still on, many saw these first steps as a green light to begin exploring other business options in the Caribbean. "Over the last 10 months there has been excessive, even exaggerated optimism over Cuba. That only leads to frustration," said Mora, who is of Cuban origin. '' Right now, Cuba is in no condition to absorb all of the attention it is receiving. There is no climate for investment. " To help under- served communi- ties attract retail development, ICSC is collaborating with OppSites, an online marketplace that directs inves - tors and develop- ers to underutilized properties. Through this partnership, ICSC member cit - ies and economic development orga - nizations can post publicly and pri - vately owned sites with redevelopment potential. The sites are showcased on a free, searchable, web-based platform. Cities, developers find online matchmaker

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