In Brief

Cuba to recognise private ownership

New constitution will open up the economy but maintain one-party system

bw-cuba.jpg

Cuba will recognise private ownership of property for the first time in over half a century, as part of a new constitution drawn up by President Miguel Diaz-Canal that aims to drag the country into the 21st century.

According to the state newspaper Granma, the new constitution will overturn a ban on the buying and selling of homes brought in shortly after the revolution in 1959. In the past, Cubans were only permitted to swap homes, although money often changed hands.

Despite moves to liberalise and shake-up the housing market, foreigners will still be banned from owning property and the state will maintain the right to compulsorily repurchase property.

Reuters says that Cuba’s current Soviet-era constitution only recognises state, cooperative, farmer, personal and joint venture property, but former President Raul Castro’s market reforms, “aimed at trying to boost the economy and make Cuban socialism more sustainable, have prompted hundreds of thousands of Cubans to join the ranks of the island’s self-employed since 2010, in new privately owned businesses ranging from restaurants to beauty salons”.

The private sector now accounts for about 17% of the labour force.

Granma says the draft document, which will be voted on by the National Assembly this week, enshrines recognition of both the free market and private property in Cuba’s new Magna Carta, and could mean enhanced legal protections for Cuba’s fledgling entrepreneurs, and foreign investors.

However, “the one-party system of government is also certain to remain intact”, The Times says, enshrining a 2002 amendment to the constitution, drafted in response to an opposition-organised petition seeking free elections and the opening up of the economy, which declared that Cuba’s socialist rule was “permanent and irrevocable”.

One widely expected change will see presidential limits of two five-year consecutive terms imposed, as well as the reintroduction of the role of prime minister which was abolished in 1976.

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