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Castro's Cuba Expands Its Private Sector


Shake-ups continue in Cuba after the communist government announced it would be shedding half a million state jobs. For the first time in decades, the Cuban government says it will allow individuals to work for themselves in 178 various private sector activities -- with the ability to hire their own employees and access credit -- according to guidelines published Friday.

The Cuban government has not granted new licenses for private sector work in years, according to CNN. But many Cubans will now be permitted to be "self-employed carpenters, restaurateurs, barbers and even salsa dancers." Without new licensing, the number of Cuba's self-employed had dwindled to just 143,000 out of the country's 5.1 million-strong workforce.

Granma is the publication of the Communist Party and one of the principal ways the government communicates with the people. The paper promised more details in coming days, saying that the expanded private enterprise would be “another opportunity, under the watchful eye of the state” to “improve the quality of life of Cubans.”

Currently, Cuba's government dictates nearly every aspect of the Cuban economy, employing at least 84 percent of the workforce and paying an average salary of about $20 a month. In return, Cubans receive education and health care from the state, as well as cheap housing, transportation and basic food.

Friday's new guidelines are the most dramatic step yet by President Raul Castro to reshape the country's stagnate economy, but he insists the socialist system will not be altered.

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