How might Washington's new policy of "empowerment through engagement" and the larger bilateral process toward normalization impact the island's emerging entrepreneurs
Direct U.S. engagement with Cuban entrepreneurs through freer travel and more remittances; access to banking and other financial services; increased exports of badly needed inputs to island
However, to increase Cuba's economic independence and overall prosperity, the U.S. should focus on addressing the specific economic needs of Cuban entrepreneurs, rather than framing its engagement
A "Cuban Moment" (?) and the Cuban Model
December 17, 2014—"
Change in Cuba began earlier. In the second half of 2010 and under the leadership of Raúl Castro, the government began a series of unprecedented economic reforms that gave credence to Fidel Castro's previously quoted quip that the "Cuban model" no longer worked even for Cuba. Just weeks following Fidel's grim assessment, on September 13, Cuba's Communist Party newspaper Granma published a
Together with a detailed list of economic
Cuentapropismo, a . k .a.,"On-Your- Ownism": A Necessary History
It is not Adam Smith's much celebrated and presumably "natural" human propensity to truck, barter, and trade, or the supposedly invisible hand of the market that acted as the catalysts for the emergence of
It is often mistakenly assumed that Raúl's 2010 opening created the hundreds of thousands of private microenterprises that exist today. However, in most cases, just the opposite is true. Periodic policies over
While the expansion of self-employment should
By the early 2000s, however, the government had instituted policies that ran many of these small enterprises out of business or back underground, and it officially ceased to issue new licenses in 40 of the total 157 legal self-
The Promise and Peril of
Raúl's expansion of self-employment since 2010 differs in
Still, many onerous and frustrating obstacles remain that severely
For example, the vast majority of Cuba's legalized "own-account" occupations are not entrepreneurial, productive, or wealth-generating at all, but strictly low-skilled, survival-oriented, service-sector jobs targeted at Cuba's
Instead of declaring a broad opening for small-and medium-sized private enterprise, together with a short list of explicitly prohibited jobs or sectors, the state published a list of just 201 jobs, outlawing all others by default.
Overcoming Both Embargoes: Recommendations for Havana and Washington
Overcoming Cuba's "internal embargo" on the optimal development of island entrepreneurship will require Raúl to undertake a second, deeper, and more audacious round of economic reforms that meet halfway both the new Obama "empowerment through engagement" policy and Cuban entrepreneurs themselves. Specifically, he can do this by:
- Implementing affordable wholesale markets for entrepreneurs, among the loudest and most consistent demands of Cuba's new breed of
- Providing direct access to foreign exchange, investment, credit, and imports and exports—all fiercely guarded state monopolies;
- Opening the professions to private enterprise; and
- Relaxing the onerous tax burden on microenterprise, which
currentlydiscriminates against domestic ventures in favor of foreign investors—who themselves can currentlyonly partner with state enterprises, cutting them off from Cuba's burgeoning non-state sector.
Progress in all these areas will
The challenge moving forward is the still piecemeal and somewhat
While most of the services on Cuba's self-employment list are
Intelligently, the State Department has also
Strengthening viable entrepreneurship means establishing a new relationship between Cubans and the state, with citizens transforming from passive recipients of subsidized goods into active participants in the nation's economy. As
Conclusion: Making the Lives of Ordinary Cubans "
un poco más fácil"
It remains to
The "American moment" of historic change in U.S.-Cuba policy that finally arrived on December 17, 2014 will inevitably change the political calculus that underlies the pace and depth of the island's economic reform. As external obstacles to Cuba's economic revitalization
Obama's courageous move to replace a failed past U.S. policy of isolation and impoverishment aimed at regime change with one of empowerment and prosperity aimed at the Cuban people is a necessary step toward "making the lives of ordinary Cubans a
Henken, an Associate Professor of Sociology and Latin American Studies at Baruch College, CUNY, is the co-author with Archibald R.M .Ritter of Entrepreneurial Cuba: The Changing Policy Landscape (Lynne Rienner, 2015) and the President ex-officio of the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy.
*Gabriel Vignoli defended his dissertation "
Schizonomics: remapping La Habana's black market" at the Department of Anthropology of The New School in 2014. He is currently a lecturer in International Relations at the Julien J. Studley Graduate Program in International Affairs-Milano School of International Affairs, Management, and Urban Policy, The New School.
By the Center for Latin American & Latino Studies and the Social Science Research Council