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Cuba economic reforms moving 'at a good pace:' Castro

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Reforms aimed at breathing new life into Cuba's decrepit Soviet-style economy are advancing "at a good pace," President Raul Castro said Thursday, dismissing calls for accelerated change.

Since sweeping economic reforms introduced in 2011 "we can see that we've advanced at a good pace," according to the daily Granma.

The president said that "the magnitude and complexity" of Cuba's problems "do now allow us to resolve them from one day to another," the state newspaper said.

Castro urged Cubans to "resist pressure from those who insist that we should move faster," although he added that the country is currently "at a better moment" to push the economic reforms forward.

Castro, 81, took over from his ailing older brother Fidel in 2006 and has gradually been overhauling island's antiquated Soviet-style economy.

Measures include trimming state payrolls and allowing more types of self-employment, handing over unused land to farmers, and allowing private ownership of things like homes, cars, mobile phones and computers.

His goal is to liberalize Cuba's economy and encourage more private entrepreneurship, but at the same time maintain a key role for the Cuban state through joint ventures.

The reforms are also aimed at trimming back the bloated public sector. The government still controls 90 percent of the economy and is by far the main source of jobs on the island.

Castro said the reform blueprint "has helped us work with more order and discipline."

He called on his ministers to "think and re-think everything we do, periodically check each measure to correct possible mistakes," and urged them and not to stop "despite obstacles that may emerge."

In its 2014 economy plan and budget, the Cuban government hopes to increase exports and cut back on imports.

Desperately needed foreign currency comes from tourism, the sale of medicine, and exports of nickel and sugar.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130404/cuba-economic-reforms-moving-at-good-pace-castro