Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Odds and ends: the entrepreneurial sector

Catching up on news about Cuba’s trabajadores por cuenta propia:

·         AP reports on the first rentals of retail space in Old Havana to entrepreneurs by the historian’s office, which is the all-around municipal authority in city’s two square kilometer colonial core.

·         There are 651 private restaurants in Cuba compared to 113 in late 2010, Trabajadores reports.

·         Blogger Wendy Guerra on her favorite neighborhood refuge, a new private hair and manicure salon.

·         Unlike before, entrepreneurs can now enter contracts with any kind of government or business entity.  Granma covered the province of Artemisa’s practice of contracting with entrepreneurs to get construtions and renovation projects done, lauding the results.  Reuters summed it up in English here.

·         Juventud Rebelde sent reporters all around the island to report on how Cuban youth are responding to the possibilities in the entrepreneurial sector.  It reports generally positive opinions, including some who are happy to have come in from the black market.  Sore points: the tax system and the lack of wholesale supplies.  “Many consider,” the article says, that regulations “should be more in line with the country’s high level of professional formation, since many indicate that they are in transitory jobs.”  One 23-year-old is quoted saying that the new possibilities reduce the desire to leave Cuba.  That’s a sentiment that government leaders, concerned about the country’s growing demographic imbalance between workers and dependents, surely hope is widespread.

·         A short article in Trabajadores on state workers who are being converted on the spot into entrepreneurs, staying in the same line of work and renting their business premises from the state.  It’s a reminder that not all “layoffs” are going to involve pink slips and a job search; many will be a matter of turning a public enterprise into a private one.

·         The Central Bank president discusses the new credit policy in Trabajadores, expressing surprise that few entrepreneurs are seeking loans; 99 percent of loan applications have to do with home repair and renovation projects.

·         Granma: Villa Clara had one of the highest rates of on-time filing of tax returns, 97 percent, after which comes the tax office’s task of going after the late filers to figure out what they owe, including possible penalties.

·         On the negative side, a large and popular western Havana restaurant and entertainment venue that operated under the rules for trabajo por cuenta propia was shut down based on allegations of “enrichment.”  El Cabildo was first covered here by Reuters.  BBC Spanish covered the closing, noting the owner’s protest to authorities, where he said it hurts all the more “because I am a revolutionary and believe deeply in the humanistic work of the revolution.”  More detail from Nick Miroff at Global Post.


Anonymous said...

the most difficult part of the reforms taking place in cuba is dealing with the idiotic bureaucrats like those who shut down Cabildo. Change always elicits fear and apprehension, but these tin pot officials have to understand they have to get out of the way, if they are not part of the solution they are part of the problem. hopefully higher officials will step in and show the reforms are real. if not, the forces of reaction will triumph and cubas last great hope for advancing into the 21st century will be lost

Antonio said...

Sad, the story of El Cabildo. Peter, about 5 years ago, a very similar situation unfolded with a paladar called La Guarida. It was a very popular place, and a several famous Europeans had dined there, as well as some members of European royal families.

When the place was shut down, one of the allegations levelled against the owner was "Excessive enrichment". Go figure.

brianmack said...

The article regarding the restaurant and entertainment venue being shut down for regulatory reasons is disappointing however imagine trying
the same in NYC? Try opening up a restaurant in your home in NY. The regulations in the USA are obscene so Cuba has joined the club. You can do a few more things in Havana, somewhat easier, than in NY however; at least it seems....

Antonio said...

Hey Brianman, I strongly disagree. I think El Cabildo was shut down because they were too successful. Also, the codes in NYC are probably pretty clear, whereas in Cuba there are lot of grey areas which allow bureaucrats to shut anyone down. I bet if El Cabildo was struggling they would still be open.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Antonio they were shut down because they had become too successful and were prospering.

However, in the case of a prominent author other factors could have influenced the decision.

Perhaps envy and intrigue by other jealous unsuccessful authors or the desire not to give others the opportunity to set up their own private entertainment centers or artist's cooperatives might be involved.

It is possible that the success of this venture threatened the interests of the bureaucracy that runs the Cuban artistic sector.

Recently, independent attitudes by prominent authors have led to public statements that were critical to the Cuban government and the ruling elite might be uneasy about such trends and want to reinforce their bureaucratic control over the artists behavior.

Such fears might not benefit the creation of cooperatives of artists where their careers would depend more on their talent and less on their perceived ideological militancy or political obedience.

Or other ideological issues of a personal nature might be involved.

In Cuba, the perception of the degree of militancy of an artist is directly related to the degree of prominence that he is allowed to achieve.

The governing elite might believe that the leading figure in this artistic cooperative lacked political militancy and might worry about what he might do with his increased popularity once he became better known among the population.

In their view artistic popularity is dangerous because it gives those that have it undue influence over the population that could be used to oppose the government.

It is difficult from abroad to figure out exactly what are the factors involved in the decision to shut down "El Cabildo" and their weight but it is evident that something is seriously out of place since the decision goes against the proclaimed government pollicy of promoting cooperative enterprises and the private sector.

Shutting down a successful business for "enrichment" reasons seems to run intuitively counter to the stated government policy.

A driver cannot step on the gas and apply the brakes on at the same time.

There would seem to be different conflicting schools of thought operating simultaneously within the Cuban government.


Anonymous said...

El Cabildo was shut down for severa reasons.

1- It was successful.
2- It did not belong and was not controled by the governing elite and the main objective of the privatization reforms in the island is to convert the ruling nomenklatura into a neobourgoisie.
A successful capitalist that does not belong to this group would not be allowed to operate.
3- It provided a way for artists to be able to earn a living outside of government controled institutions.

This economic independence would give artists more political freedom which the government considers dangerous given the fact that many of them have been recently assuming in public positions that are highly critical about the totalitarian regime.