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New bill seeks to increase foreign investment into Cuban economy

HAVANA -- Cuba plans to open its economy to greater foreign investment under a new law to be taken up soon by its legislature, a report in state-run media said Saturday.

Outside investment no longer would be merely a “complement” to Cuba's state-run economy but “would occupy a major role” under the proposed law, said Pedro San Jorge, a top official at Cuba's Ministry of Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment.

The national assembly is take up the bill in March as part of an ongoing overhaul of Cuba's Soviet-style economy under President Raul Castro.

San Jorge, who heads the ministry's economic policy office, said it envisions among other things a role for foreign investment in agriculture, which he said was unusual.

His remarks were published in Cuba's Opciones weekly newspaper.

A 1995 law mandates that foreign capital should play only a complementary role in Cuba's economy, including providing funds and technological know-how to enterprises run by the Cuban state.

San Jorge said that the planned changes reflect the “current circumstances” faced by Cuba, which has been struggling to get out from under an inefficient, top heavy, state-run industrial apparatus.

Castro last month called an extraordinary session of the assembly in March to approve the bill.

He said that the measure opening up the economy to outside investment seeks to attract greater foreign capital, generate new jobs and bolster domestic industry.

Castro said he also wants to increase Cuba's exports and reduce its dependence on goods purchased from overseas.

“You have to strengthen the country's capacity to generate many of the products that we currently import,” the Cuban leader said.

The island of some 11.1 million people has seen some significant changes since 2011.

The reforms have covered everything from the currency system to the kinds of jobs Cubans are permitted to take on as self-employed workers.

Castro also has created hundreds of cooperatives from former state enterprises, in a bid to reduce the legions of state workers who get a government paycheck.

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