Cuban Gov. Says it Will Allow More Private Jobs

Street art photo by Ken Alexander.

By Circles Robinson

HAVANA TIMES – The Cuban government chose a moment of extreme crisis to open-up more possibilities for private employment. The announcement without specifics came on Saturday.

Instead of a short list of 127 jobs permitted for independent work, now there will be a list of only those prohibited. The government said 124 business fields will still be “totally or partially limited” but gave no details.

Most experts see the recent economic reforms leading to significant job losses in the over-staffed and under-productive state sector. Thus, creating the need to allow for more independent work.

A necessary evil or real change?

The Communist Party led government still repeatedly insists that the dominant state sector is the key to the country’s future. Party ideologues see small businesses as a necessary evil in hard times, as did Fidel Castro in the 1990s. 

As many as half of Cuba’s already existing licenses for private work were handed back in Covid-depressed 2020. It’s noteworthy the government provides absolutely no Covid-19 relief to small businesses or the self-employed. This highlights the fact they are not really considered of any importance as people or to the economy.

At the same time, the recent reforms give powerful military companies a freer hand for greater autonomy.  The combination steers the country away from failed egalitarian economic policies that for decades only massified poverty.

Reform-minded Cuban economists have long called for small business to be expanded to help jump-start the economy.

“The self-employed are not going to have it easy in this new beginning due to the complex environment in which they will operate, with few dollars and inputs in the economy,” said Pavel Vidal, a former Cuban central bank economist who teaches at Colombia’s Pontificia Universidad Javeriana Cali.

“But with the ingenuity of Cubans and the sophistication of the parallel market, they will be able to take off little by little,” he told Reuters.

With a wink to Joe Biden

The move could be an attempt to get US president Joe Biden to ease up on some of the sanctions imposed by Trump. The goal would be to attract more US dollars into the economy from tourism and remittances.

Cuba would thus be putting economic liberalization on the table to deflect any discussion on repression against anyone critical of government policies or leaders or other human rights abuses.

John Kavulich, president of the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, said that if the Diaz-Canel administration is seeking to engage the new US president, finishing the currency unification, establishing a consistent floating exchange rate and boosting small businesses could serve as important “carrots,” reported the Miami Herald.

“The key is the Biden administration must believe Díaz-Canel is serious about restructuring the economy,” said Kavulich. “The only way to show that seriousness is to endure the pains of transformation.”

Read more from Cuba here on Havana Times.


5 thoughts on “Cuban Gov. Says it Will Allow More Private Jobs

  • February 9, 2021 at 2:44 am
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    This adjustment may indeed be a wink to the Biden administration, a very small wink. Instead, I think that it was intended for mostly internal consumption. Simply saying that the possibility of opening your own business exists offers much-needed hope to Cubans. Without investment capital and a wholesale market, this hope is largely empty but nonetheless hope just the same.

  • February 8, 2021 at 3:02 pm
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    Skepticism, doubt, are two words always pervasive among ordinary Cubans when the Cuban government pronounces new “transformative” economic initiatives to try and stave off the real economic boondoggle facing the country.

    For whom are these new bold initiatives suppose to help? Cuban economists have been saying for years that the best way to lift the stagnant Cuban economy from its depressive static state is for private investment, for private business, for enterprising Cuban entrepreneurs to be given the opportunity to operate unhindered and unimpeded from state controls and bureaucracy.

    I wonder if that is something that the aging, die heart communist elites will openly embrace. That would be a bitter pill for most of them to swallow since private business operating unrestricted on communist soil is certainly an anathema, an affront to Revolution ideals and a repudiation of Fidel Castro’s mantra of “Socialismo o Muerte” slogans strewn across the island.

    Perhaps these new measures, as Circles Robinson alludes, could simply be to distract the new American administration into believing that open, democratic reforms are clearly being implemented on the island and that the American administration should take particular notice and input American dollars into the Cuban economy as a sign of mutual détente.

    For serious, substantial, demonstrative, and even transformative economic change in Cuba’s listless economy there needs to be significant foreign investment of capital and resources so that the local Cuban economy can benefit from selling Cuban labor to the capital initiatives being established. Again, an anathema to communist ideology.

    In HT recently there have been three specific articles each dealing with a substantial shortage of essential consumer items: Safie wrote an article about medicine shortages; Pedro wrote an article about chicken shortages; and, Jesus Arencibia wrote an article about milk shortages. These are critical food and medical essentials required for daily living and their shortages have a tremendous negative impact on the lives of all Cubans, particularly children.

    Here is an opportunity for the Cuban communist leaders who want to be seen as opening up the island’s economy to private productivity to allow foreign companies to venture in and invest in Cuba’s local economy by opening up privately owned pharmacies, privately owned food stores, privately owned dairy operations allowing the investors free enterprise rein in local operations. Labor must be local and all the corporate inputs must be local with some foreign imports for start up but after so many years all inputs in the corporate establishments must be local. Profits belong to the investors; reasonable taxes must be paid to the Cuban government. A win-win situation.

    John Kavulich, president of the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council said the only way to show that the Cuban communist elites are serious about their recently pronounced private business endeavors “ … is to endure the pains of transformation.”

    I wonder if ordinary Cubans actually believe the current communist elites have the gumption and fortitude to endure the pains of transformation, or will most Cubans simply revert back, and rightly so after 60 plus years of government gamesmanship, to continuous skepticism and doubt about their leaders’ economic pronouncements.

  • February 8, 2021 at 1:30 pm
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    This is nothing but another Wink to USA and the European Union. More private businesses. Like that is the only problem in Cuba. How about free assembly, free speech, independent press the right to others to create political parties, the right to strike, or protest publicly?!?! They allow to open a few restaurants and another small businesses and suddenly naive people are talking about changes.
    The real change would be when the people of Cuba can vote in a free multi parties election with international observers. Democracy now.
    I bet they are thinking to replace Diaz Cannel for another Castro’s puppet as another wink to the EU and USA. BASTA!

  • February 7, 2021 at 9:03 pm
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    Que cosa. I después me pregunto porque cuba está como está. 60 años sin nadie poder crecer negocios. No hay economia que supere sin esa libertad.

  • February 7, 2021 at 7:28 pm
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    “The move could be an attempt to get US president Joe Biden to ease up on some of the sanctions imposed by Trump. The goal would be to attract more US dollars into the economy from tourism and remittances.”

    This has nothing to do with making the US happy. Raul Castro initiated the “updating” of the Cuban economy on his own terms.

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