EFE, via 14ymedio, Havana, 6 February 2021 — The Cuban government eliminated the constrained list of activities allowed in the private sector, leaving a list of just 124 occupations which can be engaged in only by government entities, a long-awaited reform that opens the doors to the expansion of self-employment in the midst of a serious economic crisis.
The decision had been announced last July within a package of measures to confront the recession and the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic, but it was not approved until this week by the Council of Ministers, according to a summary published this Saturday by the official newspaper Granma.
“That self-employment continues to develop is the purpose of this improvement,” said the Cuban Minister of Labor and Social Security, Marta Elena Feito, who noted that the private sector employs 600,000 workers and represents 13% of the employed population.
At the moment, it has not been specified what the 124 activities are that the private sector will not be able to engage in, but the elimination of the list of permitted occupations implies going from the 127 that were included in it to more than 2,000 collected in the National Classifier of Economic Activities, said the minister.
Feito also acknowledged that the health crisis and the reinforcement of US sanctions have “had a hard impact” on the self-employed, a large percentage of whom operated in the tourism and services sectors.
According to the Minister of Labor, interested parties must present a project and the paperwork will be handled through a single window, “which will make it possible to unleash the productive forces in this sector,” she said.
She also appealed to the “responsibility” of the provincial and municipal authorities “for the attention, control and evaluation of the performance of this sector, as well as the results of the inspection and the confrontation with illegalities,” reported Granma.
For his part, the Minister of Economy, Alejandro Gil, described the elimination of the list as “a very important step in terms of expanding the possibilities of working in self-employment, to give a timely and positive response to the implementation of the monetary ordering in the country.”
Although the Cuban State, governed by the Cuban Communist Party (PCC, the only legal party), has maintained its monopoly of the national economy since the 1959 Revolution, in the last decade it expanded the number of activities that people can engage in as self-employed.
Cuban economists and the private sector itself had been demanding the elimination of the list of permitted activities for years, considering it a drag on the country’s economy.
The measure comes a month after Cuba launched its long-postponed monetary and exchange unification, a far-reaching economic reform that includes the elimination of the Cuban convertible peso (CUC — which claimed parity to the dollar), an increase in wages and prices and the withdrawal of generalized subsidies.
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