Cuba eases consumer restrictions

From consumer goods to agriculture, Raul Castro introduces sweeping policy changes.

    Cubans can now buy a variety of consumer goods
    but many still cannot afford them [EPA]


    More consumer items

     

    Bans on the sale of computers, DVD players and other consumer items have been lifted.

     

    On Monday, the tourism ministry said any Cuban with enough money can stay in luxury hotels and rent cars, doing away with restrictions that made ordinary people feel like second-class citizens.

     

    And last week, Cuba said citizens will be able to get mobile phones legally in their own names, a luxury long reserved for the lucky few.


    Many shoppers filling into stores on Tuesday, however, mourned the fact that the newly available goods are unaffordable on the government salaries they earn.

     

    Low state wages

     

    A major public complaint that his government will need to deal with is that state wages paid in Cuban pesos are too low, while many consumer goods have to be paid for in convertible pesos, or CUCs, worth 24 times more than pesos.

     

    A class of "new rich" Cubans that has developed over the last 15 years will be the first to benefit from access to seaside hotels, computers and mobile phone connections that cost $120, or six times the average monthly wage.


    About 60 per cent of Cubans have access to some hard currency from cash remittances sent by relatives abroad, mainly in the US, or through factory and farm bonuses and tips from foreign tourists.

     

    Agricultural changes

     

    Under changes to agricultural production, Cuba is lending unused land to private farmers and co-operatives for coffee and tobacco production.

     

    Cuba's government television says 51 per cent of arable land is underused or fallow.

     

    According to official figures, co-operatives already control 35 per cent of arable land, and produce 60 per cent of the island's agricultural output.

     

    SOURCE: Agencies


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