World News

Cuba to cut soap and toothpaste from monthly ration

HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuba’s government, trying to save money and wean its citizens from subsidies, said on Wednesday it will remove soap, toothpaste and detergent from the monthly ration of food and consumer products it has handed out since the early days of the Cuban revolution.

The latest cut in the ration known as the “libreta” goes into effect on January 1, according to a resolution published in the government’s Official Gazette.

The notice said the products would be sold in stores at fixed prices ranging from five to 25 pesos (23 U.S. cents to $1.13), several times their current subsidized price.

Cubans, who make an average monthly salary of about $20, complain widely about their economic circumstances and many have expressed concern about the dwindling ration.

The communist-run government has previously cut such things as potatoes and cigarettes from the ration, which was created to make sure Cubans did not go hungry after the 1959 revolution that put Fidel Castro in power and the subsequent imposition of a trade embargo by the United States.

His younger brother Raul Castro is now president and has launched a campaign to cut state spending and get Cubans used to paying their own way.

He has said healthcare and education will remain free of charge to Cubans but other subsidies will be trimmed.

Excessive subsidies have discouraged hard work and led to low productivity, which must be reversed for Cuba to pull out of its chronic economic woes, Castro has said.

He has put forth reforms that include slashing 500,000 jobs from government payrolls in the next few months and expanding the island’s private sector.

While the reforms are already underway, the ruling Communist Party is expected to officially approve them at a congress in April.

Reporting by Rosa Tania Valdes; Editing by Jeff Franks and John O’Callaghan