Cuba has opened up almost all its economic sectors to private entrepreneurs in a desperate bid to breathe life into the economy devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Until last week, private companies could take part in barely 127 economic sectors. From now on, they may be able to invest in as many as 2,000 sectors, the country’s Labour Minister Marta Elena Feito has stated, according to AFP.
The news comes amid reports that many Cubans are struggling to get by, with the country facing a serious shortage of basic goods.
Cuba’s economy contracted by a staggering 11% last year, its worst decline in almost three decades.
Cuba’s private sector is very small and is largely made up of entrepreneurs such as artisans, taxi drivers, and shopkeepers. Although Cuba is a communist country, it has allowed its citizens to own farmlands.
The decision to open up the economy may prove to be fruitful only if the United States lifts the economic sanctions it imposed on the communist island.
Cuba’s hostility with its giant neighbor was somewhat eased in 2015 when President Barack Obama lifted the travel ban, allowing Americans to visit the island.
However, his successor, President Donald Trump, re-imposed the sanctions, accusing the communist regime of continuing to stifle its citizens. Now, President Joe Biden has promised to normalize the relationship.
In the meantime, there are reports that Cubans are stocking up on US dollar bills in an attempt to protect value for their earnings. Cuban currency is not traded in the open market; its price is set by the country’s communist regime.