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Cuba begins economic changes

01-31-2011 16:03 BJT

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Thousands of Cubans lined up for business licenses after their government announced last year that a limited amount of private enterprises would be allowed to operate in the country.

From bakers to taxi drivers, Cubans are hoping gradual economic changes will help the country end years of economic stagnation.

With the dawn of a new decade, the Cuban economy looks to take a dramatic step in a new direction.

Tens of thousands are chasing their entrepreneurial ambitions in 2011, Cuba's year of economic change, hopeful that a sweeping fiscal overhaul announced last year by the Cuban government is for real.

One such aspiring entrepreneur is 31 year old Julio Cesar Hidalgo.

He has opened a pizza stand in his concrete living room, hoping a gamble with capitalism will help him eke out a better living than the 12 US dollars he brings home every month from his job at a state owned bakery.

Julio Cesar Hidalgo, Cuban Business Owner, said, "I don't think this will make me rich. I don't think the benefit will be enough to buy a house or a car. It's just to a more comfortable life."

Cuban authorities announced the country would lay off half a million state workers by the end of March, while granting licenses for a broad, if slightly random, array of businesses.

The new entrepreneurs face daunting challenges in getting businesses off the ground. Hurdles include high taxes, a lack of raw materials, an uncertain consumer market, endless bureaucratic rules and limited access to startup capital.

Yet their success or failure will go a long way in determining the future of Cuba.

If the free-market experiment works, the cash-strapped government could shed millions of dollars from its payroll while boosting much-needed tax revenues and creating a new business and consumer class.

If the experiment fails, the country will have sent hundreds of thousands people previously reliant on government jobs into an uncertain future.




Editor:Zhang Pengfei |Source: CNTV.CN

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