Trabajadores reported yesterday, without much detail, on various issues discussed in a Council of Ministers meeting that took place March 31.
The article referred to an “approved policy for the experimental creation of cooperatives outside the agriculture sector” that was discussed by Vice President Marino Murillo, head of the commission that is in charge of implementing the economic reforms. His deputy Andollo Valdés later discussed the transitional “legal norms” that will take effect in the provinces of Artemisa and Mayabeque (formerly Havana province) and the Isla de la Juventud that will enable those provincial governments “to carry out in an orderly way the approved experiments.”
This is dry and uninformative language that describes a development that bears watching.
Even though small entrepreneurship has grown by more than 200,000 and is expected to continue to grow, additional measures are needed to reach the stated goal of moving more than one million workers from public to private (or, as they put it, “non-state”) payrolls.
The creation of cooperatives is the next step, and it begins now with this decision to embark on pilot projects in three provinces.
How will it work?
Surely some will involve converting state enterprises – repair shops, light manufacturing, etc. – into cooperatives where the workers will continue in their current workplace, with their current equipment, and one day move off the public payroll and be on their own. Call this the sink-or-swim variant.
It remains to be seen whether creation of new cooperatives will be permitted – say, a dozen workers who want to form a cooperative to build or repair housing, or another dozen that wants to win contracts to provide food service to offices or schools. Call this the start-up variant. An open question here is whether professionals whose services are not among the lines of work permitted in the small entrepreneurial sector (trabajo por cuenta propia) will be able to participate. There are many other questions involving taxes, rent, rules governing the structure of the cooperatives, and more.
If this sector takes off it will generate jobs for the public, and tax revenue and budget savings for the government. And it could produce something resembling a small and medium-sized business sector, albeit businesses governed as cooperatives.
Also in the article:
A report on the “unfavorable economic-financial state” of the agriculture ministry led to discussion of changes that need to be made in agriculture policy, but they were not specified.
A new planning institute director was named, and there was discussion of construction code violations (“violaciones urbanísticas”) taking place “from Cape San Antonio to Maisi.” The solution, Raul Castro said, “is not to prohibit building, but to indicate where to do it.”