Wednesday, April 02, 2008


Changes are Underway

Cubans awoke the last week in March to the lifting of restrictions on cellular phone use, the distribution of previously banned household appliances like microwave ovens, DVDs, electric bikes and personal computers.
Changes continued the first day of April with the opening of hotels and rent-a-car bookings for Cubans, although the measure has only been confirmed in person by hotel staff, still not by the local media.
In a note published by the Granma and Juventud Rebelde newspapers on
March 28, the Cuban Telecommunications Company S.A. (ETECSA) explained its expansion plans with investments in credits and technologies facilitated by friendly countries.
Cell phone service was introduced in 1991 in Cuba, mostly to meet the needs of tourists and foreign residents. According to the National Statistics Office, there were 198,252 permanent cellular line users in the country.
It points out that priority will be given to municipalities with low telephone density and settlements with more than 300 people that still do not have telephone service. Cuba has still a low density telephone coverage, amounting to 11 per every 100 inhabitants.
In addition, ETECSA announces that it will offer the mobile phone service to the population through personal contracts.
According to the note, ETECSA will soon announce the procedures that Cubans should follow to own mobile phone lines, which until now had been obtained indirectly through foreign nationals.
This mobile service will be offered in convertible currency (CUC) in order to defray the development of cable connectivity and to increase the introduction of new services in national currency.
Hotels and Car Rentals
As for the opening of hotels and car rentals to Cuban citizens, most are still unaware of the fact that hotels and car rentals have been opened to them. Still their meagre budget –currently $17 to 20 dollars a month- is not enough to cover tariffs that go from $60 to $200 and more per night.
Luxurious villas with butler service, for example, charge $1,200 and more a day.
Capable or not of paying for a hotel and rental cars, people are satisfied with the lifting of the ban, as this measure returns to locals the right to use these facilities in their own country, without feeling as second-class citizens.
Workers at the Habana Libre Tryp Hotel say they have been authorized to honor any reservations by locals, although it has not been inforfmed by radio, tv or any of the national newspapers.
Cuba received over two million tourists in 2006 and 2007, making this sector the most dynamic and first income-earner of the nation´s economy.
Although there was a slight descent in visitors, of about 70 thousand in 2007 compared to the previous year, tourism-related income was a little higher, amounting to $2.236 billion.
Canadians made the biggest splash with 600 thousand of the 2.2 million visitors that arrived in 2007. Great Britain is second, Spain third, Italy fourth and Germany fifth in the list of main emitter countries.
More Food Supply
The Cuban government will invest more than six billion pesos ($1.08 dollars) in 2008, more than four times the figure invested between 1985 and 1988, announced Vice President of the Council of State Carlos Lage Dávila during a tour of Matanzas Province.
Lage said the country is in a period in which it is making more investments, adding that the organization of that process in an efficient and swift manner is vital in executing that work.
“What one can see in a tour such as this one is that an investment process
is underway that is much far-reaching than in previous years; this is of great
importance for the economy and for the public’s well being,” he noted.
Lage added that costs can lower and shorten the time of execution of these projects. We can do everything with much less resources, which means we can do more – expand our plans for public benefit.
At the Livestock Genetics Firm of Matanzas, the vice president took interest in how
the feeding of cows can increase the production of milk, which has become more expensive on the international market.
Among the steps taken to change senseless policies, TV prime news affirmed that 51 percent of the 7,413,162 acres of agricultural land in the country was improductive or deficiently cultivated. Thus, the government has authorized the cession of state-owned land to all cooperatives who are willing to expand their current plantations.
Prices paid to farmers have also been increased as, for example, $1 to $2.50 pesos for each liter of milk produced by cooperative or private-owned cows.
More buses, road repairs and new waterworks are additional evidence that changes are underway. The next big turnover expected is in the way of salaries, although economic authorities will be cautious not to provoke a wave of inflation. The return to one currency will also eventually be adopted.
During the inauguration of the new legislature on February 24 that elected Raul Castro president of the Council of State, he referred to the lifting of senseless restrictions and other changes to be introduced progressively by his administration.
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