By Vanessa Arrington | Associated Press Writer
Cuba’s communist government has revoked some 2,000 licenses from self-employed workers across the island, part of an ongoing campaign to reassert state control over the economy, local media reported.
Those who lost their licenses were violating rules that allow a limited number of Cubans to work for themselves, Tribuna, a weekly newspaper, said in its Sunday edition.
Labor Ministry officials have been conducting interviews with self-employed Cubans to determine how they obtained the materials and skills they are selling, Tribuna said. The process will conclude at the end of the month and take place every two years, Odalys Gonzalez, a regional labor ministry director, told the newspaper.
The government has repeatedly complained about growing inequality associated with self-employment. A private worker can earn more in a day than the US$12 (euro10) that the average state worker makes in a month.
Officials also say private workers often compete with the government or steal state goods.
The government stopped issuing self-employment licenses last fall for 40 categories of jobs ranging from computer programming to auto body repair. Self-employment in these professions was legalized only in 1993 during the severe economic crisis that followed the collapse of the Soviet bloc, Cuba’s biggest source of aid and commerce.
New optimism based on oil prospects off Cuba’s northern coast and strengthened economic ties with China and Venezuela has prompted President Fidel Castro to say it’s time to re-centralize state decision-making and crack down on those working for their own financial gain.
The roughly 150,000 self-employed Cubans represent just 2.1 percent of Cuba’s work force, and officials say the state system has recovered sufficiently from the shock of the early 1990s to absorb more workers.