May 9, 2011 / 6:25 PM / 8 years ago

Cuba publishes reform guidelines, but details short

* Proposals for sale of homes and cars are included

* Also plan to study making travel abroad easier

* Castro says changes critical to future of socialism

By Jeff Franks and Nelson Acosta

HAVANA, May 9 (Reuters) - Cuba published on Monday economic reform guidelines approved by the ruling Communist Party that include proposals for the sale of homes and cars and possible changes to make it easier for Cubans to travel abroad.

But while the guidelines, endorsed last month by a party congress, were long on promises, they were short on details about when the proposals might become reality or what restrictions would accompany them.

The 313 guidelines generally reaffirm economic and social reforms President Raul Castro says are crucial to reviving Cuba’s faltering Soviet-style economy and assuring the survival of socialism when the aging leaders, who have ruled the island since its 1959 revolution, are gone.

They encourage more private initiative and reducing the size and role of the state, but maintain central planning and forbid the accumulation of private property.

Cubans, who stood in line at news kiosks to buy the guideline pamphlets for 3 Cuban pesos (about 12 U.S. cents), said they were anxious to see what their leaders had in store for them. But many were wondering how the the reforms would be applied in practice.

“The reforms still are creating a lot of uncertainty in the population ... because they bring many changes,” said radio station employee Olivia Breto, 23.

“I think it’s a favorable change because it has to do with an opening in the economy, an opening to a market that we don’t know at the moment,” she said.

Many of the reforms are already underway, but others had to be refined and approved at the April congress of Cuba’s only legal political party and now await new laws or decrees to be implemented.

Those already begun include the slashing of state workforces and payrolls, allowing more self employment, and the leasing of state lands to would-be farmers.

Sales of homes and cars have been severely limited for years in Cuba. This has been a major complaint of Cubans, but Castro promised a loosening of restrictions.

The published guidelines only say the sale of homes should be established and that ways of doing transactions should be more flexible.

PERFORMANCE-LINKED INCOME

An accompanying text about the sale of cars hints at continuing limits for the moment, saying the state does not intend to sell more cars at this time and continues to put a priority on improving public transportation.

The guidelines mention that there will be study on making it easier for Cubans to travel abroad, but gives no details on how the bureaucratic chores would be eased.

The guidelines also called for the phasing out of Cuba’s universal food ration, which Castro has already said is too costly and should go only to those who truly need it.

The changes would give greater autonomy to Cuba’s 3,700 state businesses that control much of the economy, but also stop bailouts for unprofitable ones, which are the majority.

They call for tying the income of workers and executives in state companies to the companies’ financial performance.

In addition, the guidelines set a goal of combining Cuba’s two currencies, which are the convertible CUC peso and the domestic peso in which most Cubans are paid their salaries.

But they indicated this currency convergence would not happen soon, saying the process would require “rigorous preparation and execution.”

Over the coming years, the reforms would put much of agriculture, retail services and small-scale production in the hands of family farms and family businesses, cooperatives and other entities more autonomous from the state. (Editing by Pascal Fletcher and Vicki Allen)

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