Cuba offers online banking for self-employed

 HAVANA,,  August 27    Self-employed workers in Cuba now have access to bank services online from state-owned savings bank BPA, which previously offered online banking only to companies, official media reported Tuesday.

Services available via Internet include “funds transfer, information on accounts, and report on the 10 most recent transactions,” a BPA executive told the official AIN news agency.

BPA hopes the service will boost its admittedly “weak” business serving the needs of the self-employed.

The service has been available for two months now and helps the country’s “emerging economic actors” to manage their deposits through a Web site.

According to official figures from May, more than 500,000 Cubans were self-employed, a number that keeps growing since the government of President Raul Castro began expanding the scope for private initiative in 2010.

The Cuban government limits home access to the Internet to members of a handful of professions, including medicine, journalism and academia.

Until recently, hotels catering to international tourists represented the main option for ordinary Cubans seeking an Internet connection, but state telecoms monopoly Etecsa now operates a network of Internet cafes projected to number 300 by the end of 2015.

Public Wi-Fi is also available at 35 spots across the island and fees have been reduced for a domestic email service accessible from cellphones.