Cuba broadens access to loans

Havana, Feb 22 (IANS/EFE) The Cuban government broadened access of individuals to bank loans as part of an effort to "invigorate" economic reforms, Communist Party daily Granma said.

The newspaper Thursday outlined new legal regulations that allow borrowers to put up goods, homes and other assets as collateral.

The measure implements some of the options that had been announced in December 2011 when the government put into effect a new policy to finance activities by the private sector and farmers as well as those interested in rehabbing or building their own homes.

Another new element of the regulation announced Thursday was the use of market prices in determining the value of assets posted as collateral for loans.

Granma also announced a new official resolution authorizing companies and incorporated entities to use convertible Cuban pesos, or CUCs, to pay for services they receive from the private sector.

In Cuba, two currencies exist simultaneously: the peso, which trades at 24 to $1; and the CUC, which is maintained at parity with the US currency.

Most Cubans are paid in pesos.

The Economy and Planning Ministry prepared a list of jobs for which self-employed workers may be paid in CUCs, including food services, minor repairs and plumbing, among others.

According to the measure, those payments will not be able to be received in cash.

The broadening of the private sector is one of the main reforms being pushed by President Raul Castro to "update" Cuban socialism.

--IANS/EFE

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