Cuba letting drivers rent buses, make money

Mon May 17, 2010 9:20am EDT
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By Rosa Tania Valdes

HAVANA (Reuters) - The Cuban government has begun renting its smaller city buses in Havana to the bus drivers in another minor move under President Raul Castro to ease the state's hand in Cuba's socialist economy.

The program, launched several months ago and still not announced by the government, appears to be part of Castro's drive to improve the communist island's troubled economy by giving more incentive for Cubans to work harder.

"They rented us the guaguas (buses). The (state) guarantees gasoline, we pay daily taxes and what is left is for us," said a driver this week while passengers filled the 16 seats of his Chinese-made Yutong bus in a Havana plaza.

Improving public transportation is one of the major challenges facing Raul Castro, who replaced ailing older brother Fidel Castro as president two years ago.

Few people in Cuba own cars and the public transit systems they depend on are notoriously insufficient.

The smaller buses are used in Havana to connect the city center with the suburbs.

The government has fixed ticket prices at five Cuban pesos, equal to 22 cents U.S. And it provides fuel and the bus in exchange for a daily payment from the drivers of 824 pesos, or the equivalent of $37 U.S.

The drivers keep anything they make above that amount, and so far they say they are earning more than the average Cuban salary of about $20 a month.   Continued...