“You have to hear every silly thing in this country!” / Cubanet, Orlando Freire Santana

Self-employed watch repairer. “We change every kind of battery” Cuba_archivo
Self-employed watch repairer. “We change every kind of battery” Cuba_archivo

A letter published in the official Granma by one its readers asks the State to limit the prices charged by the self-employed in order to protect “the working people from abusive prices”

cubanet square logoCubanet.org, Orlando Freire Santana, Havana, 27 March 2015 – Notwithstanding the image that the Castro regime strives to present about small, private enterprise, in the sense of having expanded this activity as part of the economic transformations that are taking place on the island, the truth is that the non-state sector of the economy faces more than a few obstacles.

High taxes, lack of a wholesale market where supplies and raw materials can be acquired, the lack of recognition by the authorities of the total costs that private businesses incur, as well as the excess of audits of Sworn Personal Income Statements, among others, are some of the daily hurdles that stand in the way of the self-employed.

Last Friday, March 20, the newspaper Granma published two works that contain “recommendations” that could obstruct or kill self-employment. The first of these, “Money Well Paid?” is a report about the payments by state entities to self-employed workers in the Holguin province.

The very title of the report – with that question mark included – already allows a glimpse of the distrust of those kinds of transactions, that in the past year reached 36 million pesos. The Holguin authorities insist that state entities must exhaust all options that the providers from the government sector offer when acquiring goods or services. And only lastly to approach the self-employed workers.

The state payments to the self-employed in the referenced territory, with a view to exhaustive control, must pass through a bureaucratic structure that includes the Government Central Auditor Unit, the Commission of Charges and Payments, and the Provincial Administration Council. And by the way, what becomes of the highly vaunted “entrepreneurial autonomy” if the entrepreneurs can barely decide from whom to buy what they need?

The other material featured in Granma is the letter from a reader, “For the excessive desire to obtain greater riches,” in which he complains of the prices charged by the self-employed who entertain children in the Palmira township in Cienfuegos. In addition to that specific situation, the writer of the missive extends his criticism to all the self-employed and says in one paragraph: “I think that the Administration Councils, municipal as well as provincial, must control the prices of the offerings by the self-employed, protecting the working people from abusive prices and giving those people a legal foundation on which to demand their rights.”

It should be emphasized that an opinion of this kind, appearing in an official organ of the Communist Party, cannot be underestimated in any way. So began the attacks against the self-employed who sold home products, to those who were called “retailers.” In the end, that activity was prohibited, and many self-employed who used to hold those licenses lost them and were left unemployed.

When I commented to a café owner in my neighborhood about the Granma reader’s letter, the man reacted indignantly: “Don’t tell me…self-employed prices are abusive…Listen to me, abusive is the tax that I pay, which they have raised on me three times; abusive is that I spend more than 50% of my revenues on buying everything that I need to work, and the people from ONAT [the State tax collector] only recognize 25% as expense; and abusive was the fine that they imposed on me last year, of several thousand pesos, when they deemed that I had under-reported personal income. You have to hear every silly thing in this country!”

About the Author

orlando-freire-santana.thumbnailOrlando Freire. Matanzas, 1959. Graduate in Economics. He has published the book of essays, The Evidence of Our Time, Vitral Prize 2005, and the novel The Blood of Liberty, Franz Kafka Novels From the Drawer Prize, 2008. He also earned Essay and Story prizes from the magazine The Universal Dissident, and the Essay Prize from the magazine New Word.

Translated by MLK