Saturday, March 5, 2011

Latin American Herald Tribune on self-employment growth

HAVANA – More than 113,000 licenses to start businesses were granted in the first four months of President Raul Castro's push to expand the scope for self-employment and entrepreneurship, Cuba's official press said Friday.

"As a result of the new measures in effect since the end of last year there are 157,371 self-employed workers in the country, a number that will soon double," Juventud Rebelde newspaper said.

According to the figures, 68 percent of the new private-sector workers previously had no formal employment.

Some 20 percent of the licenses granted have been for the "preparation and sale of food," from home deliveries to opening restaurants.

The other most sought-after option is the contracting of workers, with 15 percent, while permits to transport passengers and goods account for another 6 percent.

Other licenses in demand were those for makers and vendors of household items, landlords, builders, carpenters and shoemakers.

Since October when the new regulations went into effect to increase self-employment, 32 percent of the permits awarded have been in Havana, home to more than a sixth of Cuba's roughly 11 million people.

The expansion and loosening of restrictions on self-employment in Cuba is being introduced to help make up for jobs eliminated by the massive lay-offs contemplated for the "inflated" state work forces, one of the more significant measures of the plan promoted by President Castro.

The so-called "labor readjustment" in state work forces plans to eliminate 500,000 public-sector jobs, and its implementation was supposed to begin in January, but the government has acknowledged a "delay" in the process.

President Castro said last week at a meeting of the Council of Ministers that the elimination of the bloated state work forces is a measure that cannot be locked into "inflexible periods of time," adding that the plan of economic adjustments should not be applied hurriedly or in an improvised manner because the possibility of mistakes in its implementation constitutes the "biggest threat" to the revolution.

Castro acknowledged delays in the start of this process, insisted that the state "will leave no one unprotected," and said it would take five years to get Cuba's economic reforms up and running.

The Project of Guidelines for the Economic and Social Policy of the Party and the Revolution, as the plan of reforms is known that was created to overcome the economic crisis that has afflicted Cuba for years, will be ratified at the sixth congress of the ruling Communist Party, set for the second half of April.

The island's only legal political organization last held a general assembly in 1997. EFE

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