Cuba Encouraging Workers from Public Sector to Private Sector

September 13th, 2010

I can’t even believe this story, titled Cuba’s Public-Sector Layoffs Signal Major Shift, appears in the NY Times.

In perhaps the clearest sign yet that economic change is gathering pace in Cuba, the government plans to lay off more than half a million people from the public sector in the expectation that they will move into private businesses, Cuba’s labor federation said Monday.

Over the past several months, President Raúl Castro has given stern warnings that Cuba’s economy needs a radical overhaul, beginning with its workers. With as many as one million excess employees on the state payroll, Mr. Castro has said, the government is supporting a bloated bureaucracy that has sapped motivation and long sheltered a huge swath of the nation’s workers.

“We have to erase forever the notion that Cuba is the only country in the world where one can live without working,” he told the National Assembly last month.

What, no stimulus packages or shovel ready jobs to help recover Cuba’s economy?

Nope, to the contrary, it seems that Raul Castro is getting out of the way:

Since permanently taking over from his brother Fidel two years ago, Mr. Castro has often pledged to make Cuba’s centralized, Soviet-style economy more efficient and open up opportunities for people. The government has handed tens of thousands of acres of state-held farmland to private farmers and begun freeing up a market for agricultural supplies. It has loosened restrictions on cellphones and other electronics, and created a few areas for private business, allowing barbers’ shops to become cooperatives and giving more licenses to private taxi drivers.

New York City could certainly use more taxi licenses.

And where will all those laid-off public sector employees work?

To absorb all those workers who will be laid off, the federation said that hundreds of thousands were expected to move into some form of private enterprise over the next few years.

But not everyone is happy with these developments?

There is also a larger question that goes to the heart of Cuba’s ideology, Mr. Kavulich said. “The Cuban government is going to allow and by definition encourage people to go into private sector opportunities,” he said. “What happens when some people get rich?”

“The government is going to have to determine whether it will allow and embrace success, not just opportunity,” he said.

But that’s the beautiful thing about liberty Mr. Kavulich. Once people have freedom, the government is no longer the agent that can determine whether it will allow success. Freedom is infectious.

Kudos to Cuba.