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Cuban vendors adapting to change

Regional 07 Sep, 2021 Follow News

Cuba’s self-employed have fewer restrictions now

Cuban entrepreneurs, running businesses ranging from selling dried fruit to repairing bikes and developing software, are scrambling to understand the opportunities and challenges ahead after a landmark change in the rules governing the Communist-run economy.

The government introduced reforms last month lifting restrictions on small and medium-sized businesses and to access state financing, ending decades of classifying them as “self-employed”. The measure is seen as one of the most important reforms undertaken since all businesses - down to shoe-shine boys - were nationalised in 1968 by late leader Fidel Castro.

The reforms are overwhelming received as positive, long-sought by many Cubans. There are restrictions though, such as people can own no more than one business and cannot contract foreign partners or carry out direct foreign trade.

"Given the economic situation and remaining restrictions, it will not mean a big economic improvement in the short term," said Omar Everleny, an academic and economist.

Cuba's economy contracted by 10.9 percent in 2020 and shrank another two percent this year through June, compared with the same period in 2020. It remains reliant on tourism and imports.

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