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Cuba puts a brake on the growth of own-account workers

From the paladar (private restaurant) the most famous of Havana, frequented by the celebrities that visit the island, to the more humble fosforero (person refil

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Cuba puts a brake on the growth of own-account workers

From the paladar (private restaurant) the most famous of Havana, frequented by the celebrities that visit the island, to the more humble fosforero (person refilling lighters), all the economic activities encompassed under the label of self-employment, or working on own account, have experienced a spectacular boom in Cuba in recent years. So much so, that on the 7th of December, will come into force new regulations to sort this loophole of private property that brings together entrepreneurs, professionals, self-employed and single survivors, as the modest fosforeros or the women who sell juice to the door of their houses. The success of the self-employed —a drawer that also fit clothing stores, cool, party organisers of fifteen years, manicurists or successful dulceros— threatened to overrun the channel official of the economic planning of the country. Growth yes, but with order and concert, is today the motto official.

The new cuban Constitution enshrines some forms of private property, but undertake remains synonymous with resolve, the verb used in everyday life: to go by patching needs and unforeseen. Without a wholesale market where provided, and subject to the provision of random —the same letter of the palate can be affected daily by the lack of this or that product— the "cuenta-propistas" exercise the imagination and capacity of their own initiative in a bar almost daily. As the rest of the cubans.

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Idalmis Alvarez, director of care and control to the Self-employment of the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, defines self-employment as “an economic activity that takes many years, with many modalities, from the nineties it has been updated several times, with a major update in 2010. It is not something static, but a process subject to evaluation and refinement. At the end of October were registered 588.916 "cuenta-propistas", 13% of the occupied population”. In its day, a true conceptual revolution, today is an “employment option that we're going to enhance, but in an orderly way, to improve the activity and the control of the same”.

The 28% of the nearly 600,000 "cuenta-propistas" they are young, and the 33% are women. The sectors most represented are the restoration (paladares and cafes), with 9% of the licences; transport (taxis, 9%) and leasing (6%), a choice of accommodation for tourists is increasingly popular. The success of the self-employment shot up to 201 the number of activities, which from now on will refundirán in 123; the new rules also set out the limitation of licenses per head, only one per person, which will restrict for example the seating capacity of restaurants or coffee shops (up to now each license is allowed for 50 seats). In this living process, of transformation, with licenses that regulate activities, it also happens in reverse. “At the request of the workers themselves create the activity of baker dulcero [pastry chef],” recalls Alvarez, something that should remind every stretch greedy business filled with merengue and colors.

Palate in the centre of Havana. Yander Zamora THE COUNTRY

“The "cuenta-propistas" must apply for your license, registration and, after authorization, be taxed according to the activity they are carrying out: not taxed the same a palate that a fosforero. There are lines of credit, and tax credits, and although it is true that there does not exist a wholesale market to stock up, we are working to fix it and has made some attempt to provide to the cooperatives,” adds Alvarez.

The artisan Yami Palomba, self-employment, since the past two decades, the committee regrets the rise in the price of the license and especially the lack of inputs. “The State has realized that one of the main supports of the economy of the country we were, and we increased the rates. But for the little ones is more investment than profit. We have to resort to the retail market as any other cuban, and that reduces the profit margin and encourages speculation. That's why, next to "cuenta-propistas" that have been made rich, there are more that have failed,” he explains.

Lack of raw materials,

The lack of raw materials to make their designs pushed the pair formed by the cuban Idania Kralbet del Rio and the Spanish Leire Fernández, owners of the clothing brand Illegal to reuse used clothing. Founded in 2015, the business today employs 30 people, from seamstresses to printers or specialists in digital marketing, each of them with its respective license self-employment. His shop, in Old Havana, is a must-see destination for tourists, and the outdoor harvest great success in the US, to the point of collaborating with Google, with whom few days ago was a parade in Havana.

“we Learn and we innovate, we're going to stick blind. Send to the responsible of e-commerce to do a marketing course to Miami and we stock of cotton in a co-operative of North Carolina. Everything we do: we buy, produce, sell,” explains Fernandez, who is in charge of the international dimension of the brand to be able to navigate better, as the Spanish, the lien of the united States.

“The initial difficulty of reusing second-hand clothes, which posed complications to the seamstresses, it has become the philosophy of the project. We have made the difficult advantage, something on the other side very cuban,” explains Del Rio, a designer I discovered on a trip to Uruguay in 2004, “an emerging economy, creative, young and driven by the Internet. I said ‘why not do that in Cuba’, and that was the stimulus to create it here.” The self-employed is always innovating, there is no area of comfort and you're going to break it kills”, adds Fernandez.

All cubans are entrepreneurs, whether or not they have a license, match the creative Underground, which sells avant-garde clothing lines and accessories and works with local cooperatives to create social fabric in an island with a lot of potential, and to prevent young people to go. Earning money is the means to achieve all of that.” The fear of an alleged excessive wealth of entrepreneurs, which for many is after the brake sector, it should not scare the State, is the opinion of the creators of Undercover. “You can't fight against wealth, but against the poverty. It is well regularizarlo all, that everything is legal, but you can not create discouragement, because this is the worst environment for the self-employed.

Palates against the ropes

The self-employment Miguel Angel Morales inherited from his grandfather, a spaniard who immigrated to Cuba at the beginning of the TWENTIETH century, a beautiful mansion in Old Havana. In its beginnings liquor store, then nationalised after the triumph of the revolution in 1959, reopened itss doors as palate in 2011, a year after the authorities give a great boost to the self-employed. Today, the restaurant Cuban Currency also houses a training centre for the youth as restorers. “It is a community project, with training workshops supported by the Ministry of Labour, local Government and the Office of the Historian of Havana, and titles recognized by the Catholic University of Murcia. Right now we are training to 1,500 young people on various topics related to the restoration,” explains Morales.

Many of those who have gone through the workshops have already opened their own business, and some even work abroad or in the cruise ships that dock on the island. “Initially, we were going to the young unemployed nor studying, to let them see that there was an alternative to the state sector, to improve their quality of life, a real employment alternative. Today we have many more applications than we can meet. This project generates employment, and therefore life, on the environment,” concludes Morales.

Her business, located in the tourist centre and "very prosperous", he admits, will be affected also by the new constraints to the sector. Owners of other palates to recognize covered in the anonymity of the setback it poses to their establishments, the limitation of licenses. "I have a seating capacity of 150 people because now I have three licenses, legally obtained [a palate, another cafe, another bar] and by the payment corresponding. But if I give up two, I will have fewer customers, ingresaré less and I will be forced to dismiss part of my persons; and may not undertake," says a restaurateur, who also regrets the absence of a wholesale market and the daily difficulties for the supply of products.

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