Initial steps of Cuba's private economy development

After intense debates spanning several decades, the Communist Party of Cuba has finally granted permission for private enterprises to operate.
A private ice cream parlor in Cuba

A private ice cream parlor in Cuba

From 2021, Cuban citizens have been able to set up small and medium-sized businesses and employ up to 100 individuals. Currently, over 8,000 private enterprises have successfully completed the registration process.

The private sector has been experiencing a strong resurgence, resulting in higher productivity. Mr. Roberto Rojas, who proudly displays a portrait of leader Fidel Castro in his office, established a company named Rojas Dairy nearly two years ago in the town of Guines in Western Cuba. As of now, his company has employed 28 people to produce yogurt and ice cream.

According to Al Jazeera, Mr. Roberto Rojas cited examples from socialist countries such as China and Vietnam, where private enterprises have thrived and achieved significant success. Rojas Dairy is a typical model of young, innovative, and socially responsible businesses. Importantly, in a cash-strapped nation where ensuring a full meal on the table has become increasingly challenging in recent years, food-producing businesses have become more valuable. Milk is bought from the State, while cocoa, stabilizers, and coloring agents are imported from foreign countries. Townsfolk bring their own bottles and containers to purchase yogurt based on their affordability. Thanks to local production, the town's ice cream shop, which had been shuttered for a decade, recently reopened its doors. Employees at Rojas Dairy are making impressive advancements and receiving generous salaries.

Jakcel Conteras, a former veterinary assistant, is now one of the hundreds of thousands of Cubans working in the private sector, and he says, "The difference is truly significant."

Various small businesses have emerged lately in and around the central area of Guines town, mainly kiosks specializing in imported items such as cooking oil, toilet paper, and cleaning products. It appears that some local residents are satisfied with these options.

Luis Alberto Rodriguez shared his thoughts while cycling for shopping, "Allowing private economic activity is the best decision the government has made." Undoubtedly, private enterprises in Cuba currently offer the most diverse range of products.

The expansion of the private sector has been part of the Cuban Communist Party's agenda for over a decade. However, the Cuban Government has been very cautious in implementing this program. During his tenure as President from 2006 to 2018, Mr. Raul Castro made efforts to accelerate it.

Roberto Rojas' private ice cream factory

Roberto Rojas' private ice cream factory

From 2020, owing to budget constraints, the people of Cuba have grown accustomed to spending hours in lengthy queues to acquire food through the State distribution system. Amid this context, the private sector is strengthening its supply chains and is projected to import goods worth US$1 billion in 2023.

Emily Morris, an economist at University College London, expressed concerns about the potential brain drain as the new private sector seems to be drawing people away from the State sector in some cases. It means that key positions within State agencies are being vacated, which could likely result in a decline in the quality of services provided by the State to its citizens. However, despite recognizing these issues, private entrepreneurs continue to expand further.

Mr. Yulian Granados, the owner of Rutami, a company specializing in wooden toy production, expressed his enthusiasm when discussing his plans. Amidst the swirl of sawdust, as machines carve wooden blocks, he stated that he feels "fulfilled" working for himself. He believes that the private sector will never be eliminated and is currently essential for Cuba's future. He said, "Opportunities are everywhere. If you want to produce a product, there's hardly any competition. So, there are many market niches to explore."

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