Cuba eases new rules on private sector after criticism

HAVANA, (Reuters) – Cuba’s government said yesterday it was easing new regulations on the Communist-run island’s fledgling private sector originally published in July after hearing concerns of entrepreneurs and experts.

A new resolution published in the official gazette modifies the original regulations to lift a restriction of one business license per person and a limit on restaurant capacity of 50 seats.

Among the package of regulations on the private sector, those measures had faced the most criticism from both entrepreneurs and economists who said they would curtail the sector’s growth at a time when the economy is already facing significant headwinds, such as reduced aid from key ally Venezuela.

The owners of emblematic private restaurants in Havana that are popular with tourists had said they would have to fire workers in order to stay within the 50-seat limit, while Cubans with several business licenses fretted over which to give up.

Authorities held meetings nationwide over the last few months to inform private-sector workers about the new regulations, and also gathered feedback.

“During these exchanges with the self-employed workers and with specialist and officials, we received opinions, ideas and experiences that were rigorously evaluated,” Labor Minister Margarita Gonzalez Fernandez said in a broadcast roundtable discussion. “As a result, we decided to approve the modification of some aspects originally approved.”

The new private-sector regulations reflect Cuban concerns over rising wealth inequality, tax evasion and black market activity in the wake of market reforms.


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