Faced with a battered economy, Cuba’s leadership continues to open the door to the private sector.
Under new proposals more Cubans will be allowed to work for themselves in an effort to create more productive employment. Havana insists the measures will not mean large-scale reform but some believe the latest tweak could lead to significant change.
Currently, most Cubans work for the state, which controls nearly 90 per cent of the economy.
President Raul Castro said the steps aim to eventually take some one million “excess” workers off the government’s overburdened payroll.
Speaking to the National Assembly President Raul Castro said: “The Council of Ministers has agreed to increase the practice of self-employment and use it as another alternative to jobs for excess workers, eliminating various existing obstacles for the granting of new licences.”
Today, excluding Cuba’s big black market, out of a population of some 11 million people, only about 144,000 are legally self-employed.
Barbers, hairdressers and certain taxis firms were given greater freedom three months ago, but the latest measures should see a further move towards privatisation. But the question is, how much and in what sectors?
For the past two years Cuba has been in the grip of a crisis that has forced it to cut imports. It faces a severe shortage in foreign exchange and has also seen a sharp fall in tourism. To stimulate that sector, Cuba’s Council of Ministers has also approved the building of 16 new golf resorts, including villas, in a bid to lure foreign buyers, a move not seen since the 1990s.