In an announcement by the labor federation, the Cuban government declared that it will lay off 500,000 state employees by March 2011, and hinted at deeper cuts to the government's workforce. Currently, 85 percent of Cubans are employed by the state. Many view the move as part of a larger philosophical shift by Raúl Castro in his attempt to "radically" overhaul the economy. While government bureaucracies are encouraging new private-sector opportunities, there does not appear to be a comprehensive plan to compensate for the hundreds of thousands of jobs that will be lost. Critics weigh in on the implications of the far-reaching plan:
The Plan: Eliminate 1 Million Jobs By 2015 and "increase private-sector job opportunities by allowing more Cubans to become self-employed and form independent cooperatives," writes Bloomberg's Blake Schmidt. "In August, the Cuban government loosened controls that prohibited Cubans from selling their own fruit and vegetables. It also eased property laws, extending lease periods to 99 years from 50 years for foreign investors in an effort to build up a tourism infrastructure and draw more visitors to the Caribbean island of 11.4 million people."
- Raúl Castro's Most Important Reform reports The Financial Time's Marc Frank. "Raúl Castro has fostered discussion in the media and grassroots meetings on the problems afflicting the socialist economy, but he has made mostly minor changes up till now....The massive layoff of 10 per cent of the state labour force is scheduled to begin in October and stretch through March. New licences for self-employment would be issued beginning in October, the sources [who have seen the plan] said."
- The Government Is Shedding Subsides points out Elisabeth Malkin at The New York Times. "While Cubans have access to free health care, education and subsidized food and housing, the government has already cut some of the subsidies that many Cubans rely on to supplement their average monthly wage of about $20. And given the government’s record of introducing new areas for enterprise only haltingly, it is unclear that new jobs can be created as quickly as the public sector positions will be cut."
- A Road Map For 'Authoritative Arrogance' concludes an Arizona Republic editorial, which highlighted the potential costs for, "control-minded dictators worldwide." Cuba's massive layoffs may signal the end to the U.S. embargo of the nation, eventually: "An advocate for abandoning the long-running Cuban embargo, Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz.. sees the privatization as a 'really big' change but nevertheless recommends that any change in U.S. policy toward Cuba not be viewed as linked to the economic reforms."
- Deals a 'Body-Blow to Decades-Old Social Safety Net' upon which the island attempted to build an egalitarian society, writes Will Weissert and Paul Haven at the Associated Press."Castro has long complained that Cubans expect too much from the government, which pays average monthly salaries of just $20 but also provides free education and health care and heavily subsidizes housing, transportation and basic food. Because unemployment is anathema in a communist society, state businesses have been forced to carry many people who do almost nothing."
- Bolsters the Claim That 'The Cuban Model No Longer Works' notes The Christian Science Monitor's Sara Miller Llana, alluding to a Fidel Castro quote obtained in an interview with The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg. She continued: "The government also announced that more Cubans will be allowed to create their own employment opportunities, form employee-run cooperatives, and lease more state land and businesses. Those Cubans who are not made redundant in state jobs will also face a new salary system that rewards productivity."
- Let's 'Castro-ize America' declares The Daily Mail's Don Surber. "Cuba is doing what Washington should. In fact, all 50 state governments could pare back on the number of people on their payroll."