Cuban Communist Party cools reform expectations
( Reuter )- Cubans can expect more access to consumer goods, but it will take time to raise wages and fix the country's unpopular two-currency system, the ruling Communist Party newspaper said on Friday.
Addressing expectations of economic changes under new President Raul Castro, Granma newspaper warned that Cuba needs to produce more before restrictions can be lifted in its state-run economy.
Lifting a ban on Cubans staying at hotels reserved for foreign tourists is possible, the newspaper said in a column by its editor Lazaro Barredo.
"One thing is the removal of measures related to so-called 'prohibitions,' such as access to tourism (facilities) or the sale of appliances; another thing is the issue of the double currency," Barredo wrote.
Cuba has authorized shops to start selling computers and DVD players -- limited until now to companies -- with air conditioners and other electrical appliance to follow in 2009, according to an internal memo seen by Reuters on Thursday.
Many Cubans complain they earn low wages in pesos but need convertible pesos called CUCs to buy most consumer goods, from toothbrushes and soap to appliances and gasoline.
Raul Castro, who formally replaced his ailing brother Fidel Castro three weeks ago, has criticized excessive restrictions and promised to relax them.
In a speech on February 24, Castro said the government was studying a gradual revaluation of the Cuban peso, which would make goods priced in CUCs cheaper.
Rumors that a revaluation was imminent sent Cubans rushing to change CUCs into pesos the following day, forcing officials to assure the public that a revaluation would take time.
Barredo said a revaluation would result in Cubans "storming" shops and emptying them of goods. He said Cuba could not afford to import billions of dollars in goods.
"The country's leadership cannot say that the double currency system will disappear from one day to another," Barredo wrote. "It is not possible to resolve more needs if we do not work more and produce more."