From Shasta Darlington, CNN
December 19, 2010 -- Updated 0501 GMT (1301 HKT)
* The president says the aim is to make socialism "irreversible"
* "There will be no going back," Castro says
* Cuban officials expect its economy to grow 3.1 percent in 2011
Havana, Cuba (CNN) -- Cuban President Raul Castro told legislators
Saturday that the country's economy would undergo significant change in
the coming year, but added that the measures aimed to bolster socialism
-- not make Cuba a capitalist nation.
Castro has begun a radical shakeup of the Soviet-style economic model,
previously announcing the elimination of one million state jobs and the
expansion of private businesses. Cuba's National Assembly tapped him as
the Caribbean nation's president in 2008, ending nearly five decades of
rule by his older brother Fidel Castro.
As part of the plan, Cubans are being allowed and even encouraged to go
into business for themselves, working as barbers, plumbers and even
birthday clowns as the government tries to boost productivity.
"The measures we are applying, and all of the changes that are necessary
for the modernization of the economic model, are aimed at preserving
socialism, strengthening it and making it truly irreversible," said
Castro, according to a copy of his speech published by the state-run
Castro has called for debates across the country before April, when the
Communist Party holds its first congress in almost 14 years at which
they could approve his plan.
In the speech, he insisted there should no longer be a stigma attached
to working in the private sector.
"Many Cubans confuse socialism with handouts and subsidies, equality
with egalitarianism," said the president, who spoke at the close of the
country's National Assembly in Havana, according to Cubadebate.
The government expects the Cuban economy to grow 3.1 percent next year,
up from a projected 2.1 percent growth in 2010.
"We can assure you that, this time, there will be no going back." said