Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Self-Employed - Unemployed or Illegal

The Self-Employed: Unemployed or Illegal / Odelin Alfonso Torna
Posted on February 19, 2014

HAVANA, Cuba — January offers to close its curtains with 100 empty
stands in the country's markets, self-employed who hope for job
relocation, government fines shielded in absurd justifications and the
promise of a wholesale market that does not arrive.

While the print and television press emphasize new regulations for the
private sector in 2014, the so-called "small businessmen" line up in
municipal offices of the Tax Administration (ONAT) in order to turn in
their licenses.

Rosa Maria, resident of Washington Street and Bejucal in the Havana
township of Arroyo Naranjo, is one of those who delivered her license
recently. As a seller of ice cream and slushes, Rosa received
innumerable visits from inspectors:

"The last fines were 50 and 500 pesos (2 and 20 dollars at current
exchange), both from Public Health. The 50 was because of my long nails
and the 500 because there was dust on the counter of the cafeteria; now
I'm tired!" she exclaimed.

According to the Ministry of Work and Social Security, at the close of
February 2013, 450,000 individuals worked for themselves. An official
economist, Ariel Terrero Font, said on television that judging by growth
in the first months, it would not be possible to reach "half a million
self-employed workers" by the close of that same year.

Nevertheless, after the prohibition on the sale of imported clothes and
hardware items bought on the retail market, the body of licenses awarded
by the ONAT for private work, say food vendors, cabbies (we call them
"boatmen"), clothing and hardware sellers, decreased sharply.

The tsunami that passed through Havana

Hundreds of tarps lie empty in the capital's markets. It is said
unofficially that at a national level, a mid-range of 62,000 individuals
have frozen or turned in their licenses.

In the Electrico neighborhood market, located at Camilo Cienfuegos and
Calzada de Managua, Arroyo Naranjo township, 17 stands have closed since
the beginning of January and only two operate with the sale of pirated
CDs and handicrafts. The market located on Porvenir Avenue, between San
Gregorio and Georgia, in the same township, closed totally: more than 70
stands offered clothes and imported shoes, including four cafeterias
that used to serve the self-employed.

In one of the best attended markets of Arroyo Naranjo, sandwiched
between Atlanta and Diez de Octubre, 43 stands have remained empty since
January 6. The occupied stands, a total of 32, offer tailored clothes,
handmade shoes, and costume jewelry. In Central Havana, another of the
leading markets in supply and demand, located at Angeles and Reina,
barely keeps 3 or 4 stands active out of approximately 60 mini-kiosks.

Nevertheless, while in the main the extermination of taxpayers is
visible, others give the impression of recovery. That is the case at the
Virgen del Camino Market, situated on San Miguel and B Street, San
Miguel del Padron township. This market, which reopened at the beginning
of January, has 55 abandoned sales stands and 63 in service, above all
with the sale of shoes and leather items. This township is characterized
for being the greatest producer of handmade shoes.

For Natividad Jimenez, a specialist in physical planning for the
National Tax Administration Office (ONAT) in the capital township of
Arroyo Naranjo, the taxpayers who used to sell imported clothes were
never unemployed because some have accepted relocation and others have not.

"No place has been closed. They (the sellers) were alerted since last
year, nothing has been done outside of the law. Many of the sellers from
La Cuevita (Havana's most prolific market) were illegal, that's why they
haven't done anything, they haven't complained and they have remained
quiet," Natividad pointed out.

Unemployment: A secret tax?

At the close of 2011, the Office of National Statistics (ONE) published
its last report about the numbers of taxpayers enrolled at the ONAT, a
total of 391 thousand self-employed workers. Nevertheless, statistics
published in the official press reflect, until that date, a mid-range of
444,109 individuals registered with the ONAT.

Given the growing number of taxpayers cancelled in the ONAT, the
municipal and provincial offices close ranks when it comes time to offer

Maybe the ONAT, charged with receiving the liquidation of taxes for
private workers who seek cancellation, does not register in its data
base the number of licenses turned in?

Judging by the official statistics, since December 2011 to date, only
54,000 Cubans have sought a license in the offices of ONAT. This tells
us that the private sector remains at the bottom of the sewer, in spite
of the grandiloquent displays of "transparency and timely information."

Cubanet, January 30, 2014, Odelín Alfonso Torna

Translated by mlk.

Source: The Self-Employed: Unemployed or Illegal / Odelin Alfonso Torna
| Translating Cuba -

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