Massive layoffs as Cuba liberalizes the hard way
By JORDI ZAMORA, AFP September 15, 2010
Cuba is embracing the free market the hard way, laying off hundreds of
thousands of people from its broken public sector, analysts said yesterday.
Cuba's main labour organization said Monday it expected 500,000 jobs to
be eliminated from the public sector over the next six months "along
with a parallel increase in the non-state sector."
"They don't have the liquidity to support all those people," said Jaime
Suchlicki, director of the Miami, Florida-based Cuban Studies Institute.
"The question is how is the economy going to absorb this. Cuba doesn't
have a vibrant private economy."
Suchlicki said Cuba's situation is unlike that of other communist
countries that have shifted to free markets, such as China, which
decades ago began permitting private property within certain limits.
In Cuba, he said, "no Cuban can do business with a foreign company, go
to a bank to ask for a loan, or export his products."
Cuba's President Raul Castro, however, is betting that the half million
laid off workers can be gradually placed in the private economy as
self-employed entrepreneurs with tax-paying micro businesses.
The layoffs will continue until March, which could cause public unrest.
But Julia Sweig, a Cuba expert at the Council on Foreign Relations who
recently took part in an interview with Cuban leader Fidel Castro,
believes the country's leadership has reached a consensus in favour of
the changes. "There's not multi-party democracy in Cuba but that doesn't
mean there's no process of consultation and consensus-building in Cuba,"