Cuba broadens economic reforms, plans new measures
Marc Frank, Reuters
HAVANA - Cuba adopted a new tax code this week and said it would loosen regulations on some state companies while turning others into cooperatives, as one of the world's last Soviet-style economies moves in a more market-friendly direction.
The plans were announced at a session of the National Assembly, which passed the country's first comprehensive tax code since the 1959 revolution on the communist-ruled island.
Foreign journalists were barred from Monday's meeting, only portions of which were later broadcast by the official media.
President Raul Castro, 81, has liberalized regulations for small businesses and farming, and begun leasing small state retail outlets to employees since taking over for his ailing older brother Fidel in 2008. But he now appears ready, says Cuba expert Phil Peters, "to put some meat on the bone."
Marino Murillo, head of the Communist Party commission responsible for implementing reforms approved at a party Congress last year, characterized the tax law as providing the basis for "“bringing up to date the economic model," while releasing few details of the code.
The new law takes effect next year and is scheduled for publication next month.
Castro's point man for reform said it would gradually replace an old Soviet-style system and eventually require everyone to pay income and property taxes for the first time since the 1960s.
Murillo, in a two-hour presentation to the National Assembly, announced that an unspecified number of state companies would be partially deregulated by the end of the year.
He said the companies, previously part of various ministries, would be able to make day-to-day business decisions without waiting for government approval, manage their labor relations and set prices. After meeting state contracts, they will also be able to sell excess production on the open market.
The companies will be self-financed, including through bank credits, and expected to cover their losses, versus handing over all profit to the state and receiving financing and subsidies from the treasury.
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