HAVANA Dec 16 Cuban farmers may now hire
laborers directly rather than through cooperatives, the
government said on Friday, marking a modest advance to loosen
controls in its Soviet-style economy.
Communist-led Cuba has introduced a series of reforms under
President Raul Castro but the pace of change has slowed in the
past year, raising questions about its commitment to reform.
"The new resolution aim fundamentally to stimulate the
hiring of workers related to agricultural labor in an agile,
orderly and legal way," Cuban state-run media wrote on Friday.
In other sectors of the economy, like restaurants, Cuba has
already allowed small business holders to directly hire staff.
The new regulations streamline labor conditions, said Paolo
Spadoni, the author of several books on the Cuban economy and
associate professor of political science at Augusta University
in the United States.
"But the resolution alone will do little to boost production
and efficiency unless it will be accompanied by additional
changes" such as liberalizing food distribution and giving
farmers freer rein to set their own prices, he said.
Like many of its Caribbean neighbors, Cuba imports more than
two-thirds of its food, despite having rich farmland.
Recent market reforms have aimed to boost production by
handing out land to new farmers.
Yet it has backtracked on some reforms in the past year in
the face of rising food costs. For example, the state restored
some price controls.
Analysts say this may ease the short-term pain for Cuban
consumers but it is counterproductive in the longer term, as the
reforms would eventually raise production and thus lower prices.
(Reporting by Sarah Marsh; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)