01/01/13 - Xinhua (Beijing) - 2012: Another year of changes in Cuba
Cuba ends a year in which the Caribbean country has experienced deep transformations, as part of the program boosted by President Raul Castro to update the economic model.
The First Conference of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC), a meeting that concluded with a call from President Castro to fight corruption and the announcement of the decision to limit the time of service in high state and political positions to a maximum of two five-year terms, was in session in January.
The meeting, convened in April 2011 by the 6th Congress of the PCC, approved one hundred measures to modernize the PCC and to boost economic reforms underway on the island, which are guided by a more than 300-guideline partisan document.
That same month, the government expanded the possibility to lease state-run establishments to private workers, which was experimentally carried out in small barber's shops and hairdressers that passed to "self-employed workers", as those who work in the non-state sector are called in Cuba.
The authorities decided to extend the measure to some 25 new jobs, including saw operators, carpenters, engine and ignition coilers, glaziers, photographers, jewelry repairers, mattress repairers, upholsterers, knife grinders, lathe operators, locksmiths and shoe shiners, all small services.
The rise of the non-state sector, which currently employs some 400,000 Cubans, forced the National Association of Economists and Accountants of Cuba (ANEC) in February to begin delivering administration, accounting and marketing courses and other disciplines for self-employed workers.
The goal is to prepare them so that their businesses operate efficiently, can provide a quality service to the population and contribute to the productivity of the country, then said to reporters Joaquin Infante, vice-president of the ANEC, who won the 2002 National Economics Award.
Several months later, in July, the National Assembly of People's Power (single-chamber parliament) passed a new Tax Law that will be effective in January 2013, as part of the State Budget Law for that year.
The new legislation modifies the tax regime and brings it closer to Cuba's reality, besides being a more flexible tax system that includes taxes on rental income, sales or services, workforce employment and a mandatory contribution to social security.
Starting from that legal framework, the Parliament will decide the tax burden at the end of every year, when the Budget Law for the following year is discussed.
It's a more embracing review that seeks to improve how much, how and where the self-employed should pay, together with fiscal control and improved management for tax obligations collection, said Deputy Minister of Finances and Prices Meisi Bolaños.
In September, the government, which seeks to revitalize agricultural production, approved a package of seventeen measures to provide greater autonomy to the Basic Units of Cooperative Production (UBPC), a type of cooperatives widespread on the island.
The seventeen measures, approved by the Council of Ministers, benefit the work of the UBPCs, which non-state nature was ratified by the government too.
These agricultural entities were born in 1993, when the economic crisis was most strongly felt in Cuba and the government made urgent efforts to increase the levels of food production to guarantee the survival of the population.
However, those management units, in which Cuban state released the land in usufruct so that a group of people build a productive unit, were born with a formal autonomy, because the state-run enterprises imposed plans, structures and even leaders on them.
Seen as subordinates to state-run agricultural enterprises and not as cooperatives, for almost twenty years, the UBPCs were tied down and couldn't even sign contracts with other state entities, which stopped their productive development and generated bank and corporate debts.
These units became the main cooperative form in the country, with more than 2,500 established in 1994 and owned almost a third of the arable land, but have the highest level of idle lands with more than 20 percent at present.
According to specifications, the UBPCs will have greater autonomy and control will only be exerted by the bodies with such powers, while the state-run enterprises which they are solely linked to will oversee the technical norms in the contracted production.
Also geared at increasing agricultural production, the island approved in October Decree-Law 300, which came into force in December, to soften the regulations for the delivery of idle state-owned lands in usufruct to private farmers and to authorize, among other measures, family housing constructions in those farms.
The beneficiary, with his own resources, can build or encourage new additions (properties), as well as to rebuild, remodel or enlarge them, thus specifies the legislation, which also allows constructions, facilities and other works that are necessary or useful for the care and protection of the crops, livestock and plantations.
The new decree also increased the limit of the land from 40 to 67 hectares, the area conceived for private beneficiaries who receive them for a 10-year term, but juridical entities, like cooperatives, receive them for 25 years.
Since September 2008, when the government began idle land delivery in usufruct to private people, it has handed out about 1,400 000 hectares to 170,000 people in an attempt to make those areas productive.
Likewise in October, the government announced the coming into effect, starting from next January 14, of new immigration regulations that abolished restrictions and simplified procedures, a measure largely awaited and widely welcomed by Cubans.
Council of State Secretary, Homero Acosta, explained the new regulations in a TV appearance, where he ratified that Cuba would continue betting on a legal, orderly and safe immigration.
Another singular decision was the opening of the sugar industry to foreign investment led companies from Brazil and UK, which began investing in that sector from December, when the harvest began.
The Company of Works and Infrastructure (COI), subsidiary of Brazilian giant Odebrecht, currently runs, and for 13 years, the "5 de Septiembre" sugar mill, in Cuba's central Cienfuegos province, some 226 km southeast of Havana.
Also, British company Havana Energy Ltd and Cuban state-run society Zerus SA, are building the first of five plants capable of generating 30 mw of electricity from sugar-cane bagasse and marabou wood, a thorny shrub that populates the fields of the island.
In the last month of the year, the government also started up an experiment so that small state-run cafeterias and restaurants begin to be leased in three provinces as a test from the transition to self-employment.
The new model of economic management, which includes the leasing of food courts, where up to five people work, was initially implemented in such provinces of Artemisa, in the west, Villa Clara and Ciego de Avila, in the center, and will be extended to the whole country next year.
Cuban authorities also approved the gradual creation of cooperatives in non-agricultural entities. They have scheduled the establishment of more than 200 across the country in diverse sectors, such as transportation, food, fishing, personal and domestic services, raw material recovery, material production and construction services.
The new non-state management form -referral formula since it's the most social one- takes into account the positive and negative experiences achieved by its counterparts in the agricultural sector, and includes the leasing of establishments and other properties of the State, said state-owned "Granma" daily.
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