The Cuban Government has announced the recent grant of licences of operation for over 80,000 private businesses as part of an overall plan to improve the national economy.

The resumption of licensing private businesses has been occuring since October last year, and is aimed at expanding private business in 178 categories of services in order to provide jobs for a majority of 500,000 redundant workers set to be laid off from the State-owned economic sector.

Economists predicted a surge in self-employment when the massive lay-off move comes into force this month.

The island country of 11.2 million has a workforce of 5 million, with 3 million employed in the State sector.

The Government has planned to lay off 500,000 public workers up to late March and another 500,000 later on in order to increase the economy’s competition and salaries for public workers.

Havana also made public its plan to disburse 130 million USD this year to import production materials and other products necessary for expanding the private economic model. The Government is also to provide credit information for private business people.

Deputy Minister of Information Industry and Communication Jorge Luis Perdomo on February 7 said the ministry might sell 27 percent of the stock of the State-run telecom group Etecsa to foreign businesses after its Italian partner, Telecom, sold its shares back to the Cuban telecom monopoly for 706 million USD in January.

Perdomo added that the Cuban National Assembly is expected to pass the first ever telecom law this year in service of sector development.

Also on February 7, an international information technology and telecommunication fair opened in Havana , drawing over 2,000 experts from 35 countries across the world./.