Cuba (MNN) — Cuba's capitalist
reforms are creating something new for Cubans: uncertainty.
It's an unfamiliar place for
those who have grown up in the care of the Communist government. Now, President Raul Castro is putting into
place plans he hopes will reduce government spending and boost the private
It sounds good, until you realize
that cutting government spending means cutting 500,000 jobs in six months, and
cutting food subsidies.
Leggatt with WorldServe Ministries explains, "With these layoffs, the government has also announced that
they will no longer subsidize or provide an employment insurance-type payment
to the people while they are looking for
new work. So basically, they'll be laid off with no source of income."
It's a huge shock to a sector of
workers where 85% of them were employed by the state, which translates to
roughly 5.1 million people who will be looking for work in six months.
"At the same time," notes Leggatt, "there will be a parallel
introduction of economic reforms that will encourage entrepreneurship and some
business entities that will absorb the labor force. How that will take place
practically is unknown."
The government announced they
would loosen controls on self-employment and small business to encourage more
private sector growth that will be able to absorb those out of a job. They also published a list of 178 authorized
private jobs (like blacksmiths, masseuses, hair dressers) and promised loans to
some in order to help get the entrepreneur off the ground.
Similar programs that ran earlier
saw little success. Limited reserves and
high debt haven't seen significant improvement. For the average person, there
was little improvement from the 1996 effort to jump-start the domestic economy.
The economic ripple effect will
likely hit already-struggling churches hard because they will no longer be
able to support their pastors. Leggatt
says, "Part of the reason we've been
running our adopt-a-pastor program in Cuba for the last decade or more is
to work with the churches to provide resources for the church pastors as they
are growing their church, evangelizing new areas, and raising up the
congregation that will be able to tithe and support their pastor."
Since the Gospel is still falling
on receptive ears, "We'll be continuing the adopt-a-pastor program to help
provide resources to the Cuban church planters and evangelists as they reach
out to the people in need in their community."
In spite of the dire predictions
on the success or failure of the reforms, there's still hope. "Perhaps, in God's
sovereign will and plan, this is a new opportunity for the church to experience
growth and reach out to the community with the love of Christ and provide
hope." It will take a little bit of
help from a lot of people.
WorldServe is making plans to be ready
for a harvest. Leggatt says, "When
people's worldview drastically changes, they're open to new ideas. As
Christians, we want to be there to share the love of Christ and just share the
hope that we have in Jesus." You can
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