Thursday, October 13, 2011

Viva la evolucion (Cuban private market story)

Globe and Mail

In Cuba, it's Viva la evolucion!
sonia verma
HAVANA— From Thursday's Globe and Mail
Published Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2011 8:42PM EDT
Last updated Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2011 9:49PM EDT

Barbershops, beauty salons, restaurants and car washes have sprung up across Cuba in the year since the Communist Party allowed citizens to open small, private businesses in an effort to save the country from ruin.

The government says more than 157,000 people have qualified for business permits and are currently self-employed. This new generation of Cuban entrepreneurs is quietly reshaping the island’s stagnant revolution in a way that was inconceivable when Fidel Castro was in control. The economic changes brought about by his brother Raul, however, are proving slow to take hold.

Many are being implemented by young Cubans with virtually no memory of life before communism. Some new entrepreneurs are struggling to understand how to pay small-business taxes or navigate the country’s labyrinthine bureaucracy. With virtually no access to bank loans or credit, most are relying on family living abroad to float their new ventures.

Still, Cuba is buzzing with new energy as people attempt, for the first time in their lives, to make money outside of the underground economy. Business owners are experimenting with novel concepts, such as advertising and open competition. It’s unclear, however, how far the Cuban authorities will allow the reforms to go – whether small business owners will be permitted to accumulate vast amounts of wealth, for example, or build empires.

At the moment, however, these new entrepreneurs seem content enough to turn a profit they can officially pocket.

Read the four profiles HERE.