Cuba is eager to clear the way for the private sector in order to survive, and Cuban leader Raul Castro has announced plans for the the island's first Communist Party congress in 14 years to present the party's program of reforms. The proposal emphasizes that the socialist system in force since Raul Castro's brother, Fidel Castro, took power in 1959 will not be renounced. Instead, it will coexist with market forces and foreign investment.
The proposed reforms, outlined in the "Guidelines of Economic and Social Policy," are seen as vital to completing recovery from the economic crisis unleashed by the collapse of Cuba's major supplier, the Soviet Union. They are also seen as important because of the age of the leadership. Raul Castro turns 80 in 2011, and his brother turns 85. The reforms are widely viewed as the leadership's attempt to head off revolutionary changes or a vacuum when one or both brothers have died. They include a proposal to eliminate the monthly food ration Cubans receive, symbol of decades of state paternalism and a particular target of Raul Castro, who says handouts have discouraged productivity. Some reforms have already been enacted. The Voice of Russia reported in November that the Cuban authorities have lifted the ban on real estate transactions, a ban that's been in force since 1959. The goverment annulled the moratorium on selling and/or buying real estate in the hope that it will lessen the housing shortages in the country. The guidelines include reforms already begun by Raul Castro -- among them the reduction of the state's role in the society and the decentralization of agricultural management. Earlier, the Cuban leader signed a decree allowing Cubans to set up private businesses and employing people for the first time in 50 years. The country announced reforms in September that cut a million government jobs and expanded the private sector by granting 250,000 new licenses for self-employment.
Date written/update: 2011-04-16