Cuba may cut healthcare budget, reduce food subsidies

HAVANA — Cuba has already promised to fire a half-million state workers and reshape its communist economy. Now universal free education and health care, the very building blocks of the 1959 revolution that swept Fidel Castro to power, could face cutbacks.
A signed editorial in the Communist Party newspaper Granma on Tuesday argued that the government cannot continue to run up large spending deficits — while noting that 46.7 percent of state spending goes to providing free medical care and education through college for all citizens.
"Spending cannot be thought of as a right, and in order to spend, you must have proper revenue," said the editorial, written by Granma deputy editor Alberto Nunez Betancourt.
The story featured a cartoon where a fat man labeled "spending" climbs on a seesaw marked "budget," sending his skinny playmate "revenue" hurtling skyward. It also singled out the high cost of providing basic food to all Cubans through a monthly ration card, as well as subsidized cooking oil and other domestic fuels.
"It is a matter that is going to require analysis and participation to find effective answers," Granma wrote, "as well as a rational use of resources and a permanent practice of saving."
It's the kind of opinion piece in the government-controlled press that can auger imminent announcements of reform. Last October, Granma's editor wrote in a full-page editorial that it could be time to cut back on a ration system that allows Cubans to buy a series of foods at heavily subsidized prices every month.
Since then, the government has cut potatoes, peas and other staples from the "libreta," or ration book, that Cubans have depended on since 1962 to put meager meals on their tables.
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