Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Cuba economy czar: 222 experimental non-state cooperatives to be launched by year’s end

Cuba economy czar: 222 experimental non-state cooperatives to be
launched by year's end
By Associated Press, Tuesday, July 24, 2:13 AM

HAVANA — Cuba's economy czar said Monday that plans are in place to
begin an experimental phase of non-state cooperatives in sectors ranging
from food services to transportation by the end of the year.

While cooperative farming has already begun, Cubans have been waiting
for regulations allowing them to form worker-owned co-ops in other
sectors. The pilot program announced by Marino Murillo in a session of
Cuba's parliament will include 222 cooperatives.

The creation of midsize cooperatives is a long-promised lynchpin of
President Raul Castro's economic reforms, and Cuba's economy czar
promised state support to jump-start the pilot program. Murillo said
some will be converted state-run enterprises, and co-ops will be given
preference over private single-owner businesses.

"For these cooperatives and the non-state entities, in the coming year
$100 million is being budgeted which is the financing necessary so they
can be assured production, because if we create them and there is no
financing, they won't work," Murillo told lawmakers in one of the
parliament's twice-a-year sessions.

He also reiterated that Cuba must also make its state-run enterprises
more efficient and productive, since they will continue to dominate.

"The most important part of our economy will be the socialist state
enterprise," Murillo said. "Don't think that all of a sudden the
private-sector workers will generate $40 billion, $50 billion in GDP."

Castro's five-year plan to overhaul the economy has already legalized
the sale of homes and cars and swelled the ranks of private-sector
entrepreneurs by a quarter-million since 2010.

Nearly all are small mom-and-pop shops, however, the likes of
restaurants, cell-phone repair shops and jewelers.

Cuba insists that the reforms are not are not a wholesale embrace of
capitalism but rather an "updating" of the nation's socialist model, and
most key sectors will remain under government control.

Other than a statute on taxation, no new laws were announced Monday.
Foreign journalists were not allowed access to the session of the
National Assembly, but state television aired Murillo's speech in the

For islanders wondering whether the assembly would take action on
long-promised reform of travel restrictions, it was another disappointment.

Early this year, Parliament President Ricardo Alarcon said in an
interview that a "radical and profound" change to the rules, which keep
most Cubans from leaving the country, was imminent.

There has been no word since then about scrapping the much-loathed
"tarjeta blanca," or "white card," which islanders must apply for to
travel abroad.

Speaking to parliament, Castro repeated that the government still
intends to reform the migratory rules, but did not say when it might happen.

"It has not been relegated. On the contrary," Castro said. "We have
continued working toward its gradual relaxation, taking into account the
associated side-effects."

The pace of Castro's reforms has slowed this year with no blockbuster
changes announced since December, leading many economists to question
whether Cuba can meet its own targets for reducing bloated state
payrolls by 1 million workers, and shifting 40 percent of the economy
into non-state control.


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