Cuban reforms now to drag out over 5 years: Raul Castro

Cuba will need "at least five years" to see through economic reforms after running into problems with its plan to lay off half a million state workers, President Raul Castro said.

Updated: Mar 02, 2011, 12:02 PM IST

Havana: Cuba will need "at least five
years" to see through economic reforms after running into
problems with its plan to lay off half a million state
workers, President Raul Castro said.

"Carrying out our model is not the task of just one
day, not even of one year, and because of its complexity it
will require at least five years to complete its
implementation," state television quoted him telling a cabinet
meeting late Monday.
"The biggest threat to the revolution resides
precisely in the mistakes we could make," said the 79-year-old
leader, brother of former president and revolutionary icon
Fidel Castro.

Cuba in January began a process of axing 500,000 state
employees as part of an ambitious overhaul designed to build
up a private sector in an economy that has been run on
communist lines by the government since Fidel Castro took
power in 1959.

The lay-offs were to have been completed in March this
year.

But in the meeting with his cabinet and the Council of
State, a 31-member government body, Raul Castro admitted he
needed to "change the deadlines" because of "delays."

"A task of this magnitude, which in one way or another
affects so many citizens, cannot be set to inflexible
deadlines," he said.
Raul Castro`s reforms seek to have former state
workers absorbed by the private sector, for state subsidies to
be cut, for urban cooperatives to spring up, the welcoming of
foreign capital, and for companies to operate autonomously.

Castro called for the project to go ahead "with rush,
but without pause."

Many Cubans, however, are balking at starting their
own business because of the challenges of securing products in
an economy lacking warehouse-retailer infrastructure, and in
getting loans.

Economists say the private sector is far from ready to
be in condition to pick up so many workers who are on the
government pay-roll but who are now tagged as "available."

PTI