Cuba Dips Toe in Market Economy with Legalization of Small Businesses

Thousands of small and medium-sized Cuban businesses will be allowed to incorporate in the coming months, in one of the most important economic reforms taken by the island's Communist government since it nationalized all enterprises in the 1960s, Reuters reported. The reform, details of which came to light this week, will permit small and medium-sized businesses for the first time since 1968, putting an end to the legal limbo in which many have existed for years in the Soviet-style economy. The law will also apply to small and medium-sized state firms, paving the way for an important decentralization of some activities and forcing subsidized operations to become profitable or fold, according to Cuban economists. In the food service sector, thousands of government-subsidized eateries will either close, become cooperatives or turn into small businesses, according to a mid-level manager involved in the process who spoke on condition of anonymity. Those it keeps will become small- and medium-sized state-owned businesses competing with them. While there have always been private farms and agricultural cooperatives in Cuba, most of the economy was in state hands until the 1990s when heavily regulated small businesses were allowed in a few areas under the rubric of self-employment, limiting their legitimacy and legal standing. The new measures are a key part of the economic reforms undertaken by new Cuban leader Miguel Diaz-Canel over the last year, as the coronavirus pandemic and tougher U.S. sanctions pushed the shaky economy into a tailspin and shortages of food, medicine and other basic goods reached alarming proportions. Read more.
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