Cuban Economy Starts to Become More Liberal
As the power of Fidel Castro is fading so is the Cuban economic system. Cubans are taking slow steps towards market economy. The biggest economic revolution since Castro’s rise to power is taking place on the sugar island.
For decades citizens have never had to worry about affordable schools and health care. Everything has been provided by the state. Although most Cubans have earned very little there has never been a real gap between the rich and poor.
But now things are changing. A few days ago Raul Castro, Fidel’s brother, announced that 500,000 government employees were being fired, a radical measure in a country where 90% of the people work for state.
The government is encouraging Cubans to start on their own. More and more Cubans are becoming private businessmen. Although they have to pay their own rents they can also decide on prices and keep their earnings. In Havana, you can see posters showing ads for private companies.
Many observers, however, think that a fully privatized economy will not be Cuba’s future. Instead the market will open up but still be heavily regulated, as in China. Even in the biggest Communist country the system that is in use today took 30 years to build.
Without government help and the state showing people how to set things up private entrepreneurs will never be successful. According to American economic experts Cubans need training in order to succeed in economy.
Communist revolution banner in Havanna, Cuba
Many Cubans are very uncertain about the future. As in Eastern Europe of the 1990s they are used to relying on the government for jobs. Unemployment is something new that is here for the first time.
The Cuban economy is in a bad condition. It has been hit by hurricanes, the global financial crisis and a bad sugar harvest. Raul Castro, who took over government from his ill brother, has learned that reforms are needed if the island state is to be saved. Small steps have already been taken. He privatized shops and gave state owned land back to farmers. Today Cuba has about 150, 000 so-called self-employed, people who run their own restaurants, hotels or barber shops. Many, however ,cannot expand because they have no money.
As long as Fidel Castro is still Cuba’s official leader the United States will not change its position towards the island. For 50 years there has been an embargo on Cuba. President Obama has made it clear that nothing will change before Cuba accepts a democratic system and offers its citizens free elections.
Help might come from the 1.5 billion Cuban Americans who live in the United States. They send over $1 billion dollars a year to relatives and family members. The money could support people who want to set up new businesses. But the interest that the Cuban Americans have shown for their home country has faded. Especially young ones do not want to invest into a system that is not profitable.
Raul Castro - Cuba's leader
- accept = here: get, receive
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- unemployment = the number of people who cannot get a job