Cuba changes some un­pop­u­lar rules

Sun Sentinel Palm Beach Edition - - MONEY -

HAVANA – Cuba’s gov­ern­ment has mod­i­fied a se­ries of mea­sures un­pop­u­lar with the coun­try’s pri­vate sec­tor, in­clud­ing lift­ing re­stric­tions on the num­ber of busi­ness per­mits a per­son can have and the num­ber of chairs there can be in restau­rants, a top of­fi­cial said Wed­nes­day.

In July, au­thor­i­ties an­nounced tighter con­trols on self-em­ploy­ment, in­clud­ing that Cubans would no longer be able to run more than a sin­gle busi­ness and hig­h­earn­ing busi­nesses would pay new taxes, among other mea­sures. The con­trols were meant to pre­vent tax eva­sion, abuses and the ac­cu­mu­la­tion of wealth af­ter open­ings on the com­mu­nist-run is­land had fu­eled the rise of a pros­per­ous up­per-mid­dle class. La­bor and So­cial Se­cu­rity Min­is­terMar­gar­i­taGon­za­lez said au­thor­i­ties de­cided to mod­i­fysome­ofthosereg­u­la­tions as a re­sult of months of meet­ings with representatives of the pri­vate sec­tor to hear their com­plaints. The rules, with the re­vi­sions, take ef­fect Fri­day.

Un­der the ini­tial reg­u­la­tions an­nounced in July, Cubans could have only one busi­ness per­mit — they couldn’t be a man­i­curist, rent a room and sell arts and crafts, for ex­am­ple. They can now have more than one per­mit as long as they are rea­son­able, Gon­za­lez said.

An­other change re­moves an un­pop­u­lar reg­u­la­tion that had lim­ited the num­ber of chairs al­lowed in pri­vately owned restau­rants to 50.

Self-em­ploy­ment “is a com­ple­ment to state ac­tiv­ity,” Gon­za­lez said, de­fend­ing it as a source of em­ploy­ment, taxes and improvements for the pop­u­la­tion while ac­knowl­edg­ing that “ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties have also been ob­served.”

One of the world’s last com­mu­nist nations, Cuba has made min­i­mal re­forms in com­par­i­son with eco­nomic high-per­form­ers like China and Viet­nam. But the changes it has made have al­lowed the num­ber of li­censed “self-em­ployed” work­ers to rise sharply since 2010, when Cuba be­gan open­ing to more cat­e­gories of pri­vate busi­ness. Thou­sands more Cubans work full or part-time in pri­vate ac­tiv­i­ties with­out a li­cense, though the large ma­jor­ity or Cubans still work in the state sec­tor.

The new pros­per­ity, of­ten funded with cap­i­tal from Cuban emi­gres over­seas, has prompted re­sent­ment and com­plaints from the hun­dreds of thou­sands of Cubans who still live on state salaries av­er­ag­ing $30 a month.

RA­MON ESPINOSA/AP

Cuba’s gov­ern­ment has mod­i­fied mea­sures un­pop­u­lar with the coun­try’s pri­vate sec­tor, in­clud­ing lift­ing re­stric­tions on busi­ness per­mits and chairs in restau­rants.

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