Saturday, September 20, 2014

Cuba says 9,000 cafes can be privately owned

Cuba says 9,000 cafes can be privately owned
Government has said it will get out of the restaurant business
Author: By Margot Haddad CNN
Published On: Sep 19 2014 08:21:11 PM CDT Updated On: Sep 19 2014
10:48:51 PM CDT

Thousands of state-run restaurants in Cuba will move into the private
sector and be run by citizen owners, the island nation's government
announced Friday.

The Cuban Domestic Trade department put the number eateries being
privatized at 9,000 -- compared with 1,261 private family-run
restaurants already operating. The state will still own the land the
restaurants sit on.

This is not the Cuban government's first step toward a more private
economy for Cuba.

Self-employment including the creation of privately owned "paladares"
was first authorized in 1993. Moreover, in May 2011, President Raul
Castro's government announced a new reform plan that shifted toward the
free market and announced that some state-owned businesses such as
barbershops or beauty shops would become private.

"In order to lift the economy, the Cuban government took the decision to
get out of businesses they have been running badly for the last 50
years," Philip Peters, president of the Cuban Research Center, a
Washington-based analysis organization told CNN Friday .

The privately owned restaurants already in business in Cuba "offer
interesting new dishes and they are doing very well," according to Tomas
Bilbao, executive director of the Cuba Study Group.

"Cuban entrepreneurs can now buy these (newly privatized) places from
the government and negotiate the price," he told CNN. "They will also
have to pay taxes and social security.

"The benefit of buying one of these state owned restaurant is the
location, the reputation and the utensils available that may be hard to
find in Cuba," Bilbao said.

The Cuban government had previously said that it would get out of the
restaurant business, and Friday's announcement is "part of the updating
of the economic social model," said Deputy Minister of Domestic Trade
Ada Chavez.

Cuba's Domestic Trade department said that the government was seeking to
expand "services with quality and safety that the Cuban people and
tourists visiting the island deserve."

According to the Cuban National Statistics office, Cuba hosted around
2.8 million tourists in 2012, and private restaurants are very important
to the development of the tourism industry.

"For many people who visit Cuba, these restaurants are part of the
attraction," said Peters. "It is a socialist economy, it's going to stay
a socialist economy but with a much bigger private sector in it."

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