Cuban Government Insists the Pause in the Granting of Private Work Licenses Will Be Short

A private fruit and vegetable cart of the type that will no longer be licensed.

14ymedio biggerEFE/14ymedio, Havana/Miami, 8 August 2017 — The government said Monday that it will not extend “for a very long period” the recent discontinuance of new licenses to open private restaurants and rent rooms to tourists, a measure greeted with concern in the self-employment sector.

The Deputy Minister of Labor and Social Security, Marta Elena Feitó said yesterday, almost a week after the new measures to regulate self-employment were announced, that the brake on licenses will continue for as long as “the approval process of the legal norms that will underlie this policy.”

When the new measures were announced, which, according to the Government, seek to curb irregularities in the private sector, the government said that the suspension of licenses would be maintained until “the system was perfected,” an explanation that caused uncertainty in the autonomous sector, which now includes more than half a million workers.

“We are not talking about a very long period of time, we are not talking about years, we are talking about a normal process of work for the approval of these rules,” state television said.

Regarding the permanent suspension of five types of license, such as for traditional carters, the paper explained that this is a “continuity measure,” since no permits have been granted for these activities for more than a year.

Feitó insisted that people who already have a license for self-employment can continue to exercise it, while the permits that were already in process (about 1,600) will continue the process for their eventual issuance.

She also highlighted the grouping of related activities under a single license, as in the case of professions related to cosmetic services, and mentioned the creation of two new licenses: “bar service and entertainment” (hitherto included in the license for restaurants) and “baker-confectioner.”

On the other hand, the Ministry of Finance and Prices (MFP) of Cuba published a press release on the sudden closure of the Scenius cooperative, specializing in economic, accounting and tax advice. The Government attributes the drastic measure to repeated violations of the “approved social scope” without specifying the violations.

The government’s action came after the independent magazine El Toque reported the situation of Scenius workers, who say they will defend their work “through administrative and political channels.”

“This is an internal process between the Ministry of Finance and the Scenius Cooperative and it is the responsibility of the Board of Directors of the Cooperative to carry out the discussion process with the partners and to apply what is established in the legislation for such purposes,” said a note published in the official MFP portal.

The Ministry points out that the cooperative, which “is not the most important in the country,” nor the only cooperative that provides similar services, and exhorts its managers, “who have been disseminating information” — referring to the contacts they have had with the independent press — to act with “responsibility and transparency” with the members of the non-agricultural cooperative.

“As set out in Decree-Law No. 305 of 2012, the Cooperative is dissolved if it is in breach of the purposes and principles that underpinned its constitution, and this is within the power of the body that approved it,” the official statement said.

Alfonso Larrea Barroso, a lawyer by profession and commercial director of the cooperative, told 14ymedio that they have hired a lawyer to appeal the decision of the Ministry of Finance and Prices.

Larrea regretted not only the end of the project but the fact that more than 320 people will be out of work after the closure. In Cuba there are 431 cooperatives of this type, a type of organization that the rigid system of socialist planning of the island, set up along Soviet lines, authorized to boost the economy. In his recent speech in front of the National Assembly, Cuban President Raúl Castro attacked this form of management.

“We decided to set up the cooperatives, we tried with some and immediately we launched ourselves to set up dozens,” the ruler added.

The Scenius cooperative, created in 2014, was responsible for evaluating the quality of the accounting records of several state-owned companies and was involved in the preparation and execution of economic plans, the execution of investment budgets and the management of collections or payments.