Cuban economy minister leading public reform drive

HAVANA, (Reuters) – Cuban Economy Minister Marino  Murillo has emerged as the point man for the Caribbean island’s  economic reforms after President Raul Castro let him make the  public case for modernizing one of the world’s last  Soviet-style socialist systems.

Marino Murillo

The 49-year-old economist and Communist Party loyalist had  previously stayed mostly in the background.

But in an unusual National Assembly meeting in Havana last  week, he held forth for three days in nationally televised  sessions, explaining the planned reform drive in blunt terms  that impressed many viewers. “The guy is in the spotlight and carries himself with  confidence, which means Raul has given him a green light,” said  bank employee Dario Rodriguez, 39.

In long, detailed answers to the assembly, Murillo tossed  out information about how the Cuban economy was performing,  complained mightily about the things that were holding it back  and explained why reforms were needed.

“We have to have a lot of discipline because if not, we  cannot put this economy in order. These are moments of a lot of  indiscipline,” Murillo said.

“What we are doing here is designing,” he added.

Discussing a new tax system to accompany the reforms, he  gave an exhaustive explanation and said: “This seems  complicated but is not. He who has to pay will learn it  immediately.”

The economist appointed to Castro’s cabinet in a major  shakeup last year is the architect of Cuba’s boldest reform in  decades, which includes slashing one million state jobs and  expanding the communist-ruled island’s private sector.

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