By ANDREA RODRIGUEZ
Cuba's government will spend about $130 million next year to import raw
materials and equipment for independent businesses following its
decision to allow some kinds of self-employment, officials said Friday.
In a bid to increase the efficiency of its cash-strapped economy, the
communist government announced that it would lay off a half-million
state workers and in October authorized 178 kinds of self-employment
ranging from translator and teacher to shoe or watch repair.
Most of the newly permitted forms of self-employment require tools,
equipment and infrastructure, Maria Victoria Coombs, director of
employment at the Ministry of Labor and Social Security, told Communist
Party newspaper Granma.
"The country will ensure, to the extent that it is possible, the supply
of raw materials and supplies needed for self-employment," Granma
The granting of licenses in nine of the permitted forms of
self-employment had been suspended because of the impossibility of
legally obtaining the needed equipment and fears that those carrying out
the jobs were using material stolen from state centers.
Enrique Ramos, commerce director of the Ministry of the Economy and
Planning, said the state will supply independent businesses with the raw
materials through established retail networks, since economic conditions
don't allow it to create in the near future a wholesale market with
special prices for the self-employed.
Cubans often complain that state-run retail stores have elevated prices.
A wholesale market could give small businesses access to goods at lower
Ramos said "for 2011 it is projected that imported goods and materials
worth $130 million, of which food represents $36 million, will be
incorporated into the existing supply."
Earlier this year, President Raul Castro began announcing measures to
reform the island's socialist economic model to allow some forms of
private enterprise without giving up the state's firm control of the
economy. Laid-off workers could apply for licenses to run small businesses.
Castro said Cuba's labor laws and extensive subsidies had created a
culture of inefficiency that fed an economic crisis.