Commentary: Small changes won't halt Cuban economy's free fall

The Miami HeraldAugust 4, 2010 

It's amazing that the Castro brothers have any free hands left, what with having used so many fingers to plug the gushing dike that is Cuba's failed economy.

Their most recent stopper came Sunday, when Raul Castro announced another contradictory economic salvation: allowing more private enterprise. There are an estimated one million excess workers in Cuba, and the government needs them off its bloated redundant workforce.

Cubans have long made ends meet with what they euphemistically call "by the left" -- illegal capitalism.

The Cuban government is getting in on the game by relaxing prohibitions on business licenses. This will allow the Castros to squeeze workers again by charging income and sales taxes on previously under-the-table transactions working Cubans rely on.

This may be a welcome change for the self-employed who long for extra cash without dodging the state police. But it's not enough to save a woefully mismanaged central economy that does not have enough currency for food.

It's a step back to the mid 1990s, when more than 200,000 small businesses operated on the island. That leap toward capitalism to save communism fell short, and small business owners had the rug yanked from under them when the economy improved.

To read the complete editorial, visit www.miamiherald.com.

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