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Maybe its the toilet paper. Yesterday brother-in-charge Raul Castro said that his government is going to scale back some of its total control of Cuba’s economy. This announcement comes almost a year to the day after the news broke that the island nation was running out of toilet paper.

HAVANA (Reuters) – Cuba, in the grip of a serious economic crisis, is running short of toilet paper and may not get sufficient supplies until the end of the year, officials with state-run companies said on Friday.

Perhaps a motivation to wipe away government control…maybe.

Raul Castro said Sunday that his government will scale back controls on small businesses, lay off unnecessary workers and allow more self-employment — significant steps in a country where the state dominates nearly every facet of the economy.

Cuba’s president, however, squashed notions of a sweeping overhaul to the country’s communist economic system in response to the financial crisis it faces.

“With experience accumulated in more than 55 years of revolutionary struggle, it doesn’t seem like we’re doing too badly, nor that desperation or frustration have been our companions along the way,” the president said.

Come on, what do you expect the guy to say, its been 55 years of hell on earth? Well,  that would be the truth.

Instead, lawmakers got Raul, who said authorities will “update the Cuban economic model,” suggesting reforms could be on the horizon. Cuban officials plan to reduce state control of small businesses, authorize more Cubans to become self-employed and build a new tax structure that will compel state employees to contribute more.

About 95 percent of all Cubans currently work for the government and Castro has suggested that as many as one in five state employees are redundant. He promised job cuts, calling for “the reduction of work forces that are considerably bloated in the state sector.”

Castro said those left out of work would be retrained or reassigned so as not to stay unemployed, but also said warned that few sectors would be immune to job-cuts.

Layoffs are unheard of in a communist regime (generally they shoot the people they no longer need).

The president’s announcements were similar to comments before the session began by Economy Minister Marino Murillo, who spoke to reporters about a pilot program that has turned some state barber shops over to their employees and let them set their own prices while paying rent.

Murillo said such projects would be extended to other sectors of the economy, adding that “we are of the belief that the state has to step back on certain activities.”

He also said that allowing outright private ownership was out of the question, however.

“We can’t call them reforms. We are studying a modification of the Cuban economic model,” Murillo said. He added that officials will ensure that “the values of socialism come first, not the market.”

“We will continue following centralized planning,” he said, “but we will loosen up on a group of things.”

Cuba has pledged to release 52 political prisoners as part of a deal with the island’s Roman Catholic Church, and 20 have been freed so far — heading into exile in Spain with their relatives. But Castro said that despite the deal, “there will not be impunity for the enemies of the homeland.”

Raul Castro made only limited references to Fidel, who also missed the recent celebration of Revolution Day. Raul attended that event but did not speak — the first time since 1959 a Castro did not deliver a speech on Cuba’s top official holiday.

Look I suspect that these new moves are more like putting lipstick on a pig,  While on one hand it may look as if Cuba is “easing up” just a very little bit, its more likely that the Minister of the Economy, Mr. Murillo was telling the truth when he said “the values of socialism come first, not the market.” The regime in Cuba is not simply socialist, but it is designed to empower and enrich those who are in leadership. It is doubtful that they would give up the power or the Cash.

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