* Changes allow private businesses to publish ads
* Outlet for restaurants, barbershops to lure customers
By Jack Kimball
HAVANA, Dec 8 (Reuters) - Cuba will allow private advertisements in the state-run phone directory for the first time in half a century, state media reported on Thursday, in the latest move to a more open economy.
President Raul Castro is pushing through a range of reforms in an attempt to strengthen Cuba’s struggling Soviet-style economy by encouraging more private initiative and reducing the role and size of the state in some sectors. [ID:nRISKCU]
The move to allow some private ads is unprecedented in a country where political banners replaced commercial advertising after Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution.
Communist Party newspaper Granma said private service providers such as cafes, restaurants and barbershops would be able to promote their businesses in the 2012 yellow pages.
“With the aim of offering people more contact information about private sector services, the Telecommunications Company of Cuba offers the inclusion of self-employed workers in the so-called Yellow Pages Telephone Directory,” Granma said.
State-run media reports the number of “people working for themselves,” often a euphemism for mom-and-pop businesses, has doubled to more than 350,000 since regulations governing private economic activity were liberalized a year ago.
The growth of the “non-state sector” is being encouraged as the cash-strapped government seeks to slash a million jobs from its payrolls.
U.S. ideological foe Cuba first relaxed rules on private services in the early 1990s after the fall of the Soviet Union - its principal backer and economic partner - pushed the island nation into an economic crisis.
Ads in the yellow pages will be sold for around $10 and can include photos and images taking up to one page in the book, Granma said, quoting the head of telephone directories. (Additional reporting by Nelson Acosta; editing by Anthony Boadle)