Almost half of small businesses have gone under in Cuba

By Rolando Cartaya in Martí News:

Almost half of small businesses have gone under in Cuba

The revelation emerges from Labor Ministry figures published by the official press.

A small business owner waits for the arrival of local customers.

Figures from the Ministry of Labor and Social Security of Cuba and  published by the official media, indicate that through the end of November 2013, about 50 percent of Cubans who have requested licenses for self-employment on the island had left their work.

A report on the extension of the private sector, released just over three years after Raul Castro’s government decided to push it to lighten inflated State payrolls, cites statistics  of 444,109 people who count as self-employed.

Some 407,608 Cubans had stopped operating businesses in the same period, which represents 47.85 percent of the total.

Economists on the island and abroad have listed high rates and taxes, lack of a wholesale input market, inexperience and harassment by state inspectors as causes of business abandonment.

The revelation comes as independent journalists reported the hundreds of empty spaces left by small businesses in Havana and other Cuban cities.

This week, Cubanet published the results of a tour of five fairs in the capital.  One was completely shut down. In three of them, there was tiny percentage of active kiosks in comparison to those that had been abandoned.  The last one, specializing in handmade shoes, had a higher number of active kiosks that was slightly higher than that of the abandoned ones.

The move has not only affected individuals who had invested in these businesses, but it has also affected the population. Small business made it easier for the average person to address basic needs.

In another report published by Cubanet veteran freelance journalist Gladys Linares quotes a neighbor who went to look for two faucets, an item that until the end of 2013, was widely available from private small businesses.

“The shops are empty, the floor boards and kiosks are bare. First they authorized small businesses to sell products and now they are banned. As the saying goes, ‘There are moments in life that are truly momentary.’ ”