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Updated: April 17, 2011 22:57 IST

Curbs on property continue: Raul

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Cuba's President Raul Castro at the military parade in Havana on Saturday.
Cuba's President Raul Castro at the military parade in Havana on Saturday.

Cuban President Raul Castro drew a line in the Caribbean sand across which Cuba's economic reforms must never go, telling delegates to a key Communist Party summit on Saturday he has rejected dozens of suggested reforms that would have allowed the concentration of property in private hands.

But he also strongly backed a line-up of economic changes which together represent a sea change for Cuba's socialist system, including the eventual elimination of the ration book and other subsidies, the decentralisation of the economy and a reliance on supply and demand in some sectors.

In a long speech, Mr. Raul Castro said the country had ignored its problems for too long.

He made clear Cuba had to make tough decisions if it wanted to survive. “No country or person can spend more than they have,” he said. “Two plus two is four. Never five, much less six or seven as we have sometimes pretended.”

Speaking forcefully to 1,000 delegates, the Cuban leader alternated between reassurance that the economic changes were compatible with socialism, and a candid assessment of what has not worked in the past.

Inaugurating the four-day meet, Mr. Raul Castro announced a series of reform proposals, including abolishing the decades-old food rationing system and allowing residents to buy and sell cars and real estate.

He said the monthly ration book of basic foods, perhaps the most cherished of subsidies, represented an “insupportable burden ... and a disincentive for work”. — AP, Xinhua

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