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Cuba moving toward unified currency

HAVANA, June 23 (Xinhua) -- The Cuban government was working to abolish a dual-currency system, the official Granma daily said Monday.

Progress on monetary and exchange rate unification topped the agenda of a cabintet meeting presided over by Cuban leader Raul Castro Saturday.

Vice President Marino Murillo said the authorities were continuing "to work in compliance with the approved timetable" to scrap the dual currencies, but he did not provide details.

At present, most Cubans are paid in the Cuban peso or CUP, but most goods in the country are sold in the convertible peso or CUC, which is pegged to the U.S. dollar and is worth about 25 CUPs.

The government has begun, among other measures, to train government employees to "ensure adequate preparation to tackle the process," Murillo said.

"Monetary unification will not solve all the problems of the economy, but it is an indispensable part of a process" aimed at increasing efficiency and labor productivity, he said.

In October 2013, Cuba said it would phase out its unpopular 19-year-old dual currency system, which has caused a growing wealth gap between Cubans with access to dollars and those without.

Cubans with access to convertible pesos mainly work in the tourism industry or receive money from family members living abroad, who remit some 2.5 billion U.S. dollars back home a year.

Six years ago, Castro launched an economic renovation program, allowing the existence of a limited number of private enterprises.

The dual-currency system has widened the wealth gap as more Cubans turn to the nascent private sector to make a living.

While a doctor earns a monthly salary of 500 CUPs, a self-employed mechanic can make 400 CUCs, or 9,600 CUPs.

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