Cuba's new regulations for private sector face resistance

Cuban entrepreneurs in Havana complain about rules limiting earnings

HAVANA – The news of a change in regulations for private business owners in Cuba is slowly making its way through the streets of Havana where many fear that the grip of the government is too tight given the struggling economy.

Cubans who work in the private sector are trying to understand the complexities of the new regulations. Camilo Condis is one of hundreds of thousands of entrepreneurs who will likely be affected by the new private sector rules expected to kick in early December. 

"Every time we read, we discover new things, new bad things," Condis said. "There are lot of regulations that are going to work against entrepreneurship."

Cubans on the streets are already highly critical of what many believe is the most detrimental regulation out there. Those in the private sector will only be allowed to have one license for one business.

Before Cuban authorities froze licenses in August of last year, you were allowed to have five.

"People who are truly entrepreneurs; people who want to create and want to do new businesses and they obviously have new ideas won't be able to do anything and they will have to be limited by these new regulations."

In Cuba's heavily centralized managed economy, the government has made it clear that the purpose of the private sector is not to accumulate wealth. But Condis said Cuba has a weak economy and needs a healthy private sector.

"If more people are creating more businesses, they are creating more jobs, making more money and they are paying more taxes" Condis said. "The economy is going to recover at a faster pace compared to what we have now."

Analysts say Cuban officials are in disagreement about the policy. Some in the Communist party want a strong private sector, and others oppose it.

Last week, Cuban officials said the new regulations were going to improve the private taxi industry. The regulations set up specific routes and allowed drivers to get fuel at lower costs in exchange for reducing fares. But drivers are already complaining. 

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