Saturday, May 21, 2011

339. Cuba: Council of Ministers Sanctions Labor Market for Small Businesses

Photo: Geovani Fernández
Meeting of Council of Ministers
By Leticia Martinez  Hernandez and  Yaima Puig Nenesez, Granma International, May 21, 2011 

The increase in international market prices, particularly those of foodstuffs and fuel, was one of the factors taken into account in updating the 2011 Economic Plan, as was explained in an expanded meeting of the Council of Ministers, presided over by President Raúl Castro Ruz.

As Raúl announced in the closing session of the 6th Congress of the Communist Party, increased prices alone have resulted in the cost of imports for the year rising by more than $800 million for the original volume of imports projected.
The session, which took place on May 14, alerted those present to high import levels of merchandise which can be produced in the country, a situation which is making Cuba more vulnerable to international market trends.
The results of the recent sugar harvest, while far from optimum, did meet the planned target and thus increased exports of sugar and its byproducts.
A summary was given on the updating of the state budget, with income growing, due to the sale at unregulated prices of rice, bread, sugar and eggs, as well as tax payments and contributions from self-employed workers, among other reasons.
The results of an analysis of the development of the self-employed sector, which exposed insufficient training at the base, were also made known at the meeting.
For example, it was confirmed that a number of municipalities lacked the necessary resources to ensure proper attention to people interested in this employment alternative. On occasion, documents not legally required were requested, involving extra procedures and excessive delays in terms of obtaining health certification. At the same time, self-employed vendors are working on principal city thoroughfares unsuitable for commerce, while there are state locales with a low level of activity which would be more useful if rented out for these purposes.
At the same time, the Council of Ministers agreed to extend authorization to hire workers to all non-state activities and continue the process of making self-employment more flexible.
The meeting also approved a proposal to extend the timeframe for the process of reducing over-inflated personnel rosters, based on fundamental principles such as halting workforce growth by covering only essential positions and prioritizing changes to non-state employment options.
The President insisted that a task of this dimension and involving so many workers requires time, the creation of organizational structures for its implementation, and being attentive to the smallest detail in order to adjust the process to national realities. Raúl reiterated the premise that no Cuban will be left unprotected.
In this context, one concern which has arisen is that of pregnant women who have been displaced and cannot be reassigned. According to the regulations, in this case pregnant women would only receive one month’s wages and then become unemployed without the right to paid maternity leave. Given this situation, the meeting agreed that they should receive paid maternity leave for 18 weeks, six pre-natal and 12 post-natal, from the social security budget.
Finally, those present at the meeting were shown an updated video report by Television News journalist Gladys Rubio on the Mariel Special Development Zone, set to become a modern maritime port and base in order to extend Cuba’s international access.

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