On July 23 the Cuban National Assembly approved a plan "of an experimental nature" to develop 222 urban cooperatives throughout the island. In April economic reform head Mariano Murillo had secured endorsement by the Council of Ministers, of which he is vice president. Cooperatives will be introduced into food service ventures, agricultural markets, "technical and personal services," fisheries, and water management services.
Murillo promised, "The regulatory role of the state and government will be preserved." He observed that, "For cooperativism to be effective it must be accompanied by a body of laws," as well as loans and favorable tax policies. Planning for urban cooperatives began in mid 2011. Multidisciplinary teams based in universities and research institutions currently are designing the new cooperatives.
The Cuban government's decision to expand cooperatives becomes another in a series of economic reforms that government spokespersons say will preserve Cuban socialism. Hundreds of thousands of state-employed workers have been released to seek private-sector work, private entrepreneurial activities are now allowable, state-owned land has been transferred to independent farmers and cooperatives under long term usage arrangements, and administration of the economy is being decentralized.
Communist Party Political Bureau member Esteban Lazo recently highlighted the scale of anticipated changes: "Today almost 95 percent of the country's GDP is produced by the state. Within four to five years, 40-45 percent will be produced by varied non-state forms of production."
Problems triggering these changes include: diminished worker productivity, over-dependence on expensive foreign imports, stagnant export income, lagging family and worker earnings, and even some corruption in the administration of state enterprises. The expectation is that workers enrolled in cooperatives will share decision- making, obligations, and profits. They will go on to build workplace democracy and commitment to cooperatives' production and service goals.
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