Cuba renews appliance sales amid economic changes
By PETER ORSI
HAVANA -- Cuba is renewing sales of energy-sucking appliances, reversing
a pillar of Fidel Castro's "energy revolution" in response to popular
demand and to support the growing ranks of independent workers under an
economic overhaul launched by President Raul Castro.
The measure covers appliances such as air conditioners, electric stoves,
coffee makers, grills and sandwich makers. The appliances will begin
going on sale gradually as they become available, according to a notice
published in the Official Gazette and dated Friday.
It said the action was aimed at "supplying products to the population
and independent workers."
Appliance sales have been largely restricted since 2003, and they were
key targets of former President Fidel Castro's "energy revolution."
That initiative sought to replace aging, inefficient kitchen appliances
that taxed Cuba's shaky electrical grid and contributed to frequent
summer blackouts that lasted for hours.
The former leader regularly appeared on television to push conservation
measures and flog less-power-hungry rice steamers and pressure cookers.
Government workers went door to door in many neighborhoods to replace
incandescent light bulbs with more-efficient alternatives. Officials
also overhauled the antiquated electrical grid.
Blackouts are not as frequent or severe today, though officials still
urge conservation. While most of Cuba's electricity is generated by
crude oil, there have been efforts to increase renewable sources like solar.
Raul Castro launched an economic overhaul last year that aims to rescue
Cuba's perennially weak economy by including a taste of the private
sector, though Castro stresses that the government is "updating" its
socialist model, not embracing capitalism.
The state is planning to slash expenses, subsidies and payroll, while
allowing more islanders to open their own businesses and hire employees.
Many of the independent business licenses are for restaurants,
cafeterias and home-based snack bars, where something like a sandwich
maker or an electric coffee pot could come in handy.
Friday's note in the Gazette specifically mentions the needs of the
small business owners, and says the appliances will be available on the
domestic retail market.