Tuesday, October 1, 2013

A step back, a step forward

Cuba’s boom in small enterprise has given new jobs to nearly 300,000 workers since 2010.  There are now 436,000 working in this sector, one part of a growing private sector that includes private farmers and a growing number of private non-farm cooperatives.  (Last week, 73 new cooperatives were created, 41 of which were formerly state enterprises and 32 are start-ups created by citizens who joined together and filed an application to create a cooperative.)

Apart from new restaurants and cafeterias, small-scale stores are one of the most visible changes that one sees all around.  Taking advantage of connections abroad, and now taking advantage of their ability to travel abroad, many entrepreneurs set up places where they sell imported merchandise.  An example is shown in the photo above, taken in June in Havana – a typical front-porch store with hundreds of garments flown in from Miami. 

For stores like these, the party seems to be over as the state is re-asserting its role as the sole importer.  Entrepreneurs with licenses as seamstress or tailor will no longer be permitted to sell imported goods, which will likely return things to where they were before – a much smaller-scale business where people sell person-to-person, not in streetfront stores often set up in porches or rooms rented from someone whose house is in a good location.  The government is also moving to end the resale of hardware items and other goods bought in state stores.

With that step back, there’s also a step forward.

New regulations issued last week expanded the list of approved lines of work to 201.  Among the 18 new ones are real estate agent, farm produce wholesaler, and building construction and repair – all activities that have been going on already, but now can be licensed in the open.

See coverage by Reuters, AP, AFP, and Granma.

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