The recent speech by President Raul Castro to the National Assembly laid out the prospects for the diversification of self-employment in Cuba.
The possibility of allowing self-employed people to hire their own workers was even mentioned. In other words, they would no longer be self-employed workers, but true small business people.
Perhaps one of the positive consequences of such a measure will be a greater possibility for consumers to choose products and services based on quality and preference. As economist Cristina Calvo told me, the freedom to choose is one of the conditions for a descent life, along with self-esteem and adequate sustenance.
I myself wrote a while ago (see Self-employment in Cuba: Who Wins?) of the “Special Period” crisis having now been “surmounted” (by the boring uniformity of State products) when at some of the city’s busiest bus stops there had been arrays of food stands with diverse selections of products. In these places one could choose whatever refreshment to drink and whatever sandwich or sweet to eat, and the salespeople’s treatment is even congenial.
Let’s hope this happens again.
Even though we are now so accustomed to the same thing and more of the same thing being sold, a liberalization of small businesses would not be bad.
I would also want systems implemented in the public sector where it would be possible to choose your own doctor or the school where you could send your children. Clearly, many of those things are addressed today through “pulling strings,” meaning the combination of personal relationships and administrative resources outside the established norms.
If education is truly diversified, it could stimulate qualitatively better forms of instruction. This would also increase the capacity for creation in Cuban society as a whole and in the face of tremendous world challenges.
However…the proposed changes point toward a new private sector. What will be the social effect of the appearance of a new small business class with a wage-labor work force?
On the other hand, is it indispensable that property be privately owned for the freedom of choice to exist? The neo-liberals would respond yes, flatly. Even some socialists would perhaps smile sadly in agreement… Or maybe not?