“The inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries” -Winston Churchill
HAVANA TIMES — It’s taken us almost a year to discover what the Government was doing when it suddenly stopped issuing self-employment licenses, without any warning.
New regulations have just been published and the government has also announced that it will take another six months before licenses are granted again… six more months without new licenses, business ventures, investments or jobs.
It’s hard to understand how they can possibly think to stand in the way of the economy’s most dynamic sector from developing, which also employs 13% of workers. This would lead to mass protests anywhere else, but here, we just limit ourselves to complaining, under our breath and measuring our words.
Officially-speaking, licenses were suspended because the Government needed to reorganize the sector. Nothing was ever said about what this reorganization meant, why licenses had to be suspended in order to reorganize, how long this impasse would last (which many people thought was a definitive measure) and, of course, business owners still had to pay back loan repayments to the State (many of whom were left in debt and with businesses ready to launch but no license to open them).
I know of one family who were getting their house ready to rent to foreigners, but because they couldn’t get a license, they had to sell the family car to pay back the loan the State itself had given them and was now not letting them work.
From what we are hearing, restaurant owners will no longer be able to have a space dedicated to selling sweets or use a space as a bar and leisure area. They would need to get a specific license for every one of these activities as these will now be incompatible.
The self-employed will also not be able to practice more than one profession. However, the odd thing about this is that moonlighting is allowed in the public sector of the economy, and not only that, you can work for the State and have a self-employment license at the same time. This is how they are trying to stop Cuban social classes from polarizing so quickly, and like always, they are trying to make us all equal in our poverty.
The country’s sensitive food issue is only moving backwards. No more licenses will be handed out to people who want to sell agricultural produce and we will return to the absurd centralized system, popularly known as Acopio (Cuba’s State purchasing entity), which worked for decades and is one of the reasons why Cuban agriculture only produces enough marabou bush and other weeds.
At first sight, taxes don’t seem to really change, but we will have to wait for these new regulations to come into force for us to see how little they really change. For starters, tax exemption for the first five employees has been lifted, and business owners who do manage to prosper and hire more workers, will have to pay more taxes. If you hire over 20 workers, you will have to pay 6 times more for every employee; unlike the rest of the world, and as this is a country where young people dream of emigrating, business owners are encouraged not to hire them.
Marx spoke about the “reserved army” of the unemployed that capitalism created, and I find myself asking what the name would be of the army created by this communism.
Other governments at least put on a facade of wanting to facilitate their citizens’ path to prosperity, because they vote for them, but because we don’t vote for our government, we have to put up with whatever laws they pass, seeking to stop anyone from prospering privately and they boast about it. Let me cite the deputy minister of Labor and Social Security: “There are workers who own a cafe and have a manicure, car washing, or shoe maker/seller license at the same time. That can’t be. It’s one owner who has many businesses and this isn’t the nature and spirit of the self-employed persons, which consist of people working their professions every day.”
It’s been confirmed that they only want to slightly loosen the shackles that tie us, just enough so we can survive outside of the State’s inefficient economy, but not enough so we can aspire to leave our poverty behind, which is something we seem to deserve apparently.
It seems that our leader, (Raul? Diaz-Canel?) is bothered or terrified by the fact that some citizens can live outside of State control, even just a tiny bit, and they only allow this because the Cuban government doesn’t have a foreign sponsor like it’s always needed.
There is not the slightest hint that this form of labor implies a less authoritarian attitude. Holding onto power continues to be their priority, so they can continue to share out misery among those of us at the bottom, while they will take care of the wealth.