Private Businesses in Cuba Want to Export Without Working Through State Companies

Readers of the official website complain about measures that do not allow the private sector to avoid the usual obstacles.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 25 September 2020 — The official newspaper Cubadebate convened its debate forum this Thursday to answer the questions of individuals interested in exporting through state companies. As it happened, the forum had a lot of forum but little debate.

Many of the 37 Cuban companies authorized as intermediaries participated to answer the specific questions of some self-employed workers, but no one accepted the proposals and criticisms made in more than 550 comments, among which one idea was constantly emerging. Why not allow direct exports if the US penalizes those made through the State?

“What they want is for any goods, production, service, etc. to be imported/exported through the State. Of course, this is how they make us victims of the commercial and financial blockade of the United States against the Cuban government. Understand that the blockade is against the Government, not against natural persons who exercise self-employment,” argued an annoyed commentator.

“I have had the opportunity to visit Panama and Mexico. In those countries I visited several stores belonging to compatriots who live there. (…) There the Cubans import merchandise from China or Europe, they have warehouses that are supplied by private suppliers, where in a little 16×16 nook I have seen more services and products than in the Carlos III [shopping mall in Havana].

“So I ask myself, why do Cubans have to leave in order to have those freedoms? That is what bothers us, when the time comes when the State offers those opportunities without making our lives hell, then the light will be seen at the end of the tunnel.

“We know that the blockade is real, but we are not so bothered by what is imposed by people who do not interest us. The [blockade] that bothers us the one imposed by our compatriots themselves,” clamored another reader.

The forum was conceived to address doubts about the links between State companies engaged in foreign trade and non-state forms of management, which the authorities now call FGNE, an acronym that did not go unnoticed by another reader.

“What a mania to complicate everything. Now they even invented a new acronym: FGNE to designate Non-State Forms of Management. Listen to that, isn’t it better to call it the private or cooperative sector? The bombast and euphemisms are killing us,” he observed sarcastically.

According to the Ministry of Foreign Trade, the chosen state companies have more than 1,056 requests from individuals to carry out some type of operation and almost 732 self-employed workers and some 119 cooperatives are in negotiations.

In order to find out about experiences, resolve doubts and document complaints, companies and state agencies answered many questions in the forum, but users who lamented how it is working did not receive satisfactory solutions.

“It’s really boring. It’s 2020 and we are trying to do something that the world has been doing for centuries,” began a reader who signed off with a revolutionary greeting. “Why don’t they stock a large wholesale market in CUC for these workers, instead of just advising us? No, it is easier for them to charge fees for management. Oh, and in USD. I am not one to criticize and we know that criticism is annoying, but they complicate everything, they want to seek the profitability of these companies with individuals,” he concludes.

Some users also regretted that Customs does not allow individuals to import some products without commercial purposes, complicating and making the processes more expensive.

“Why don’t we Cubans allow ourselves to get things done without the mediation of these companies, to import what we need?”

“Totally agree. People do not need State companies as intermediaries to export or import,” two users added.

The tax nature of the measures was something that other readers reproached because, although many agreed that in all the countries of the world there are intermediaries who charge for facilitating procedures, it is not mandatory to go through them.

“In any part of the world you can import and export with your own means and procedures. That the Government and the entities educate people about it is one thing, that they impose their mechanisms is another,” says a reader.

“It seems to me that it is contradictory to say that authorized State companies are helping the self-employed. those who want to import are forced [to work through the state],” insists another commentator.

Although some readers are in favor of the government’s measures and ask those who are upset for patience, the latter reproach them for their attitude.

“I am struck that we have people in this debate defending all kinds of obstacles and others who see the reality that importing alters the seller’s price, sometimes up to more than 10 times. These defenders [of the status quo] surely have motorcycles or cars. While those of us who work will have to save our whole lives to import a motorcycle. We are wrong. With each measure, years pass demonstrating it’s bad. And those who suffer are the workers.”

The queries about the collection of the money earned are also numerous. Individuals receive 80% in freely convertible currency and the remaining 20% in Cuban pesos, but many users wonder why they cannot use the money as they wish. The amount in foreign currency, being in an account associated with imports and exports, should be transferred to a personal account, but it is not very clear how the process would be organized and the answers did not clarify anything for the readers.

“There is currently no prohibition for natural persons to withdraw freely convertible currency from their account, only the availability of these currencies at bank branches at the time of withdrawals has to be taken into account,” the Bank responded to a commentator who asked whether he could take his cash.

But the answer meets reality. “With all due respect: there are never liquid currencies to withdraw in cash, I have tried to do it many times and nothing, I have always had to go to the informal market.”


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.