Cuba Publishes List of Banned Self-Employment Activities

By El Toque

Photo: David Estrada

HAVANA TIMES – On February 10th, Cuba’s Ministry of Labor and Social Security published a list of work activities banned within the country’s self-employment sector. According to the document published on the Ministry’s website there are 124 activities listed. There is a disclaimer saying that “the list can be amended as it is reconciliated with legal regulations.” The regulations are still being drafted.

Banned activities include some that were in a legal limbo up until now, such as sound recording and music editing. A lot of national music is being produced today in independent studios, which is then distributed via alternative channels to the Weekly Package.

Art galleries, travel agencies and tour operators, research activities and businesses that provide support services for other companies, all fall into the banned category now.

Other banned activities on the list are the wholesale of spare parts, pieces and accessories for automobiles, renting recreational and sports equipment – excluding bicycles. 

Legal activities and accounting, except for bookkeeping, are still banned professional activities. The same goes for architecture and engineering-related activities. Point 83 stipulates that other professional and technical activities are also banned, with the exception of translators of documents and certified translators and interpretors, design and photography activities.

To learn more about the activities that are authorized within this sector, you can search for them on the National Classifier of Economic Activities, which is also available on the Office of Statistics and Information website. When you find the activity you wish to exercise, find the four-digit number that precedes it. If this number does not appear on the MTSS’ list of banned activities, then it is allowed.

Management and organizaiton of concert venues, theaters, museums, physical or digital libraries; as well as zoos and natural areas, are all included on the banned activities list that was recently published.

While managing sports areas isn’t allowed, you can create and run “muscle/body sculpting gyms” and rent out swimming pools. You cannot create or run sports clubs for football, chess, boxing swimming, shooting, athletics or carry out diving-related activities as a self-employed worker.

Professional business associations and union-related activities are also explicitly banned.

Within the sector of human health and social assistance, hospital, doctor and dentist services, as well as nursing care, are all banned for private employment.

In the section Supplying electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning, electricity generation, transmission and distribution are all banned. The exceptions being biogas and supplying steam and air conditioning.

According to Oniel Diaz, an entrepreneur and co-founder of Auge consultancy firm, the publishing of this list is a “great and historic step” and means a shift in the paradigm when it comes to self-employment.

“For decades, and ever since this sector appeared, it was subjected to a list of one-off activities that you can exercise, and everything else that hadn’t been authorized was left in illegal territory. Violating this could have potentially led to fines, confiscation of equipment and you even ran the risk of committing “illegal economic activity,” a crime that is stipulated in the Penal Code in force today,” he explained in a report published by Auge.

The new way to get a license to be self-employed will supposedly involve less steps. Economist Pedro Monreal said this simplifies the process considerably “by authorizing complete sections, with one-off exceptions.” However, he added that nothing had yet been said about a regulation for creating small and medium-sized enterprises (PYMEs).

The publication of banned activities for the self-employed is the first step in reforms to Cuba’s private sector, announced by the Ministery of Labor and Social Security. According to what minister Marta E. Feiro Cabrera explained on the TV show Mesa Redonda, regulations for the license-granting process will be published this month.

Once these regulations are implemented, all self-employed workers will need to reregister, a gradual process via the Ventanilla unica (one window) platform. 

Among those who are now able to receive licenses again are computer programmers, who hadn’t been able to receive new licenses since August 2017.

Read more news and features from Cuba here on Havana Times.

4 thoughts on “Cuba Publishes List of Banned Self-Employment Activities

  • Good to see Castro apologist John McAulife comment again. It must be tougher every day to continue to justify the failed Castro dictatorship. I look forward to seeing John’s future comments about the consolidation of Cuban money and the opening of tourism sector once COVID recedes.

  • I can’t wait the usually suspects that come to the pages to defend the dictatorship, who are they going to blame this on, Trump, the Blockade, the embargo, the independent journalists, people getting paid by the exiles?!?! Who are you going to blame for this absurd arbitrary decision?

  • There are some restrictions that are not surprising because of security concerns, especially since it is still not clear how far and and how fast the Biden-Harris Administration will go to restore the full range of Obama openings. Washington dithering reinforces suspicion in Havana that regime change leverage dreams are again in play.

    However, some of the exclusions seem motivated by the desire to maintain a state monopoly in the sector, regardless of economic benefit to the country. Travel is a prime example. Allowing private Cuban agencies will substantially increase the involvement of smaller independent US agencies and the increasingly significant sector of home-based agents.

    When I began working with Vietnam all travel was organized by a few state companies. Today the sector is primarily private and vastly larger, with the US being the biggest source of international visitors. (FYI, Vietnam is still a one party country that frowns on organized political opposition.)

  • This is one of those baby steps taken from time to time by the Castro dictatorship to begin to address the moribund economic situation. It’s a lot like putting lipstick on a pig. Looks nice but it’s still a pig. Without a wholesale market,marketing freedom and the unlimited capacity to be profitable and grow, little economic benefit to the economy as a whole will result.

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