Cuban leader to review state of economic reforms
01-Aug-11, 6:38 AM | Agence France-Presse
HAVANA — Cuban President Raul Castro begins his sixth year in office
Monday with a session with parliament to discuss implementation of his
reforms to allow small private businesses to operate in the communist
More than 600 deputies have been convened for the twice-yearly session
with the 80-year-old president, who took over the top job from his
ailing brother Fidel five years ago Sunday.
Members of parliament have been meeting behind closed doors since
Thursday to review the state of the nation.
Poor economic results, poor planning, and bureaucratic disarray have
dominated the discussions, according to Cuban press reports.
Although there was no official announcement, Castro was expected to
address the session on the progress made on his plans to eliminate a
million public sector jobs and create new jobs by allowing small private
business to operate legally.
In recent months, the number of privately employed workers has grown
from 148,000 to 326,000, while another 146,000 people have been given
the use of state-owned land for farming to offset food shortages.
But Cuba will still import 80 percent of the food it consumes this year
at a cost of $1.5 billion.
Small business operators, meanwhile, complain that supplies are
difficult to obtain because wholesale markets do not exist in Cuba.
In response, the government has allocated $300 million for imports of
equipment and other material to meet demand for them by the private
It also lifted a ban on the sale of consumer appliances in effect since
2003, to satisfy demand from business for items like ovens, air
conditioners, deep fryers, toasters, coffee makers, and other equipment.
Central Bank President Ernesto Medina, in a report to parliament, has
promised to improve access to credit for small businesses and farmers
and to finance home improvement and construction projects.