Recent negotiations between the Czech Republic and Cuba regarding a decades-old debt hit a snag. Cuba, wracked by years of US economic sanctions, just didn’t have the money to pay back the $AU375 million it owes.
Solution: “Hey, can we pay you in rum?”
While Cuba doesn’t have much money, it does have plenty of rum – and perhaps more interestingly, the offer is being seriously considered. The government noted it was open to the suggestion – considering repayment in rum to be “an interesting option” – but said that at least part of the debt should be paid in cash.
During the negotiations the Czech government suggested that the repayment could be partially made in either rum or pharmaceutical drugs. European Union regulations place extra restrictions on drugs being imported from outside the EU, meaning that rum became a realistic option for debt repayment.
The Czech Republic loves a drink, having the highest beer consumption ratio per head in the world. While rum might not be the favoured tipple, almost 1000 tonnes was imported last year.
But if the Czechs agree, how much rum can $375 million buy? The Guardian reports that, at current rum-drinking rates, if the debt was fully repaid in rum there’d be enough to fuel the country for 130 years.
While the idea might seem pretty silly, payment in rum could be a money spinner for the Czech Republic. Europe loves rum, but hasn’t exactly got the climate to grow enough cane sugar. Taking Cuba’s rum might allow the Czech government to resell it in compliance with EU regulations and recoup their debt many times over.
So if you see the bartender reach for a bottle of Czech rum on your next European holiday, you probably don’t need to be too sceptical.