Cuba’s decision to allow private sector involvement in additional areas of the economy represents a modest move toward free-market policies that will allow some domestic companies to scale up operations and attract moderate levels of foreign investment. But crucial sectors of the economy remain excluded from the reform.
State-owned media reported last week that Cuba’s Council of Ministers approved a reform that expands the list of economic activities where private ownership is authorised. The reforms, initially announced four months ago, allow Cubans to legally own and operate private businesses in more than 2,000 different sectors, expanding a previous list of only 127 sectors. However, the 124 economic activities where private sector involvement remains prohibited are in some of the islands’ most lucrative industries, including tourism, tobacco production, pharmaceuticals and health care.
Nevertheless, the green light for small and medium enterprises to start operating on the island, is widely seen as a step in the right direction.
Some 600,000 Cubans of 11.2 million people work in the private sector - 13 percent of the workforce. Most work in hotels, restaurants, transportation and tourist accommodation.