Cuba unveils plans for economic future

* Communist party to set future course at April congress

* Proposals recommend changes, but do not scrap socialism

* Planning, not market, will still be paramount

By Esteban Israel

HAVANA, Nov 9 (BestGrowthStock) – Cuba in future will be a country
that promotes foreign investment, expands the private sector
and dutifully pays off its debts, according to a proposal
revealed on Monday by the ruling Communist party.

But it will not renounce the socialist system installed
half a century ago after Fidel Castro took power in a 1959
revolution, according to the 32-page document that will guide
debates at a Communist party congress in April.

“The economic policy in the new phase will correspond with
the principle that only socialism is capable of overcoming
difficulties and preserving the gains of the revolution, and
that in the updating of the economic model, planning will be
paramount, not the market.” it said.

The document, entitled “Guidelines of Economic and Social
Policy,” is the program of reforms President Raul Castro will
place before the party congress for its consideration.

They could be modified during extensive public discussions
ahead of the congress, which was announced by the president on
Monday night and will be the first since 1997.

The congress is where Cuba’s only legal political party
sets direction for the country, supposedly for the next five
years, although it will have been 14 years since the last
meeting.

The April gathering will be particularly important because,
given the age of current leadership, it will be the last for
the generation that fought the revolution and has held power
since then, hewing hard to communist ideology.

President Castro, 79, took office in 2008 after older
brother Fidel Castro, 84, ruled the island for 49 years and
finally resigned due to ill health.

He promised to improve the daily lives of Cubans and has
focused on economic improvement, including major reforms
announced in September to cut a million government jobs and
expand the private sector by granting 250,000 new licenses for
self-employment.

ONLY THE ECONOMY

He said Cuba’s economy will be the only topic at the
congress.

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.

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.

They also call for provisions for bank credits for the new
self-employed and wholesale stores to cut their costs, but also
for them to pay taxes to finance public spending.

In contrast to past policy, state-owned businesses that do
not make money will be completely liquidated.

And the authorities will look to improve the country’s
international credibility “through the strict fulfillment of
contract commitments.”

Cuba’s standing with the international business community
has been damaged the past two years as a cash crunch forced the
freezing of Cuban bank accounts held by foreign businesses and
of payments to many of them.

The party also proposes “to continue encouraging the
participation of foreign capital in Cuba, complementing
national investment in those activities of interest to the
country.”

The document mentions, for example, the development of golf
courses, marinas and luxury condominiums to attract wealthier
visitors to the Caribbean island.

Raul Castro said that before being distributed, a copy of
the guidelines was submitted to Fidel Castro for his
consideration. Even though he is no longer president, he is
still head of the Communist party.
(Editing by Jeff Franks and Mohammad Zargham)

Cuba unveils plans for economic future