EFE, via 14ymedio, Havana, 18 March 2018 — Mercabal, the first wholesale market in Cuba, opened its doors in Havana, initially intended only for non-agricultural private cooperatives but with the promise of extending it to the other self-employed workers of the Island, the official newspaper Granma reports on the front page.
The facility already has 35 customers, who have access to a discount of 20% off the retail price on products such as beans, cigars, soft drinks, beers, sugar, salt, jams, hamburgers and sausages, which are in high demand in private sector restaurants, coffee shops and bars.
Chicken, one of the most consumed foods, will be reduced by up to 30% compared to its price in the retail network, says Granma, which acknowledges that the Cuban government is responding to “one of the most repeated demands of those who exercise the new non-state forms of management in the country.”
“To the extent that conditions permit, this experience will be extended to the self-employed in units leased” to the State, explained the Minister of Domestic Trade, Mary Blanca Ortega.
For now available only in the capital city, the next wholesale markets will open “gradually” in the rest of the island, “once this initial proposal is in optimal operation and depending on the places where more self-employment exist,” said the article.
In Cuba today there are more than half a million private or “self-employed” workers, who are engaged in categories of work permitted by the Cuban Government.
More than 12,000 are members of non-agricultural cooperatives, which already number about 420 throughout the country, the vast majority of them dedicated to food services, commerce, other services, construction and industry.
Located in the Havana municipality of Plaza of the Revolucion, Mercabal will open from Monday to Saturday with products from ten direct suppliers, which will replenish the market according to the customers’ monthly orders.
In order to use the services of the new market, the self-employed person must have updated their client file and have an account with a magnetic card, issued by the state-owned Banco Metropolitano.
The 2010 expansion of private work — which includes non-agricultural cooperatives — has been one of the key reforms of the government of the outgoing Cuban leader Raul Castro to update the socialist model and reduce the overlarge workforce of the state sector.
As of last August, the Island began a process of reordering “cuentapropismo” (self-employment), as a part of which the issuing of licenses to private restaurants and tourist rentals, among other activities, has been temporarily halted to curb illegalities, “deviations” and “correct deficiencies.”
The licenses no longer being issued are precisely those in most demand among the would-be self-employed.
Although it promised that the new measure would not be in effect “for a very long period of time,” the Cuban government has not yet resumed the delivery of licenses to Cuba’s self-employed, who already represent 12% of the country’s labor force.
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