Published on Thursday, July 29, 2010
HAVANA, Cuba (AFP) -- Cuba's lawmakers on Wednesday mulled legalizing
more small private businesses, perhaps expanding a limited program to
include farm and food industries in the economically struggling
communist nation, state media said.
Committees in the National Assembly were reviewing potential measures
ahead of a keenly awaited address on Sunday by President Raul Castro.
The Cuban president, 79, is expected to outline social and economic
policies, possibly including some significant changes.
In a country in which 95 percent of the economy is state-run,
inefficiency is rampant and wages are woefully low, Cubans' hopes are
running high that some change is coming to allow some economic opening
in the Americas' only one-party communist regime.
Castro three months ago gave a green light for a test-run privatization
of barber and beauty shops.
Under the limited program, the state rents now out shops to workers who
used to live mainly on tips and work at home on off hours. Now stylists
are able to set their own prices, and are working at improving service.
Stylists pay for a license, their rent, social security plus electric
and water bills.
Now, committees are looking at whether privatization can be expanded in
food businesses, long plagued by insufficient supply, high prices, and
major problems in the distribution chain from rampant theft to spoilage.
Castro took the reins from his ailing brother Fidel Castro four years
ago, saying he wanted to boost production. But the Cuban government has
not made bold policy shifts able to achieve the gains it wants.
So far the government has handed fallow land to Cubans willing to farm
it; and has ended the equal scale for salaries for all workers across
But workers still make an average of around 20 dollars a month.
And the government has left Cubans aghast at their potential fates,
making it known that it may dismiss one million workers -- 20 percent of
the work force. The economy does not currently have the ability to
absorb such vast numbers of jobless.