Cuba rules out releasing the monopoly of foreign trade

Cuba descarta soltar el monopolio del comercio exterior

HAVANA, Jan.31st   Despite the recent opening to the private sector to almost all economic activities, the Cuban State rules out letting go of the monopoly of state companies specialized in the import and export of merchandise, Minister Rodrigo Malmierca said on Monday.

The private sector that wants to “import things (…) can do so through specialized state companies,” said Malmierca, head of Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment, in an interview with the weekly Bohemia.

Some 1,400 Mini, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) have been created since its approval last September, and although some are state-owned, the vast majority are private and cover almost all branches of goods and services.

These new entrepreneurs complain about how expensive it is to import through state companies and ask the government for facilities to bring their supplies to the island.

At the VIII Congress of the ruling Communist Party in April 2021, the historical leader Raúl Castro “reiterated that foreign trade will continue to be a state monopoly,” recalled the minister, questioning whether private companies are ready to import and export “efficiently.” “.

Malmierca admitted that foreign investment in Cuba has numerous difficulties, some caused by the US embargo, the lack of liquidity, but others due to Cuba’s inefficiencies.

However, he pointed out that from 2014 to the present, “there are businesses agreed for more than 7,000 million dollars”, which “is not little”, he considered.

But “not all (that capital) is operational because that’s another problem. Sometimes we approve the business, and the capital can’t come because the banks don’t transfer it.”

Other requests from foreign investors in which Cuba is not willing to give in are the direct hiring of workers and private property on the ground.

“The hiring of personnel through a (local) employer agency responds to policies” that seek to ensure that foreign business workers do not earn more than their peers in state-owned companies, the minister said.

He added that “there are also other things that (investors) don’t like, and that’s not why we’re going to change them. For example, land ownership is State property, it’s endorsed in the Constitution.”

The land that many foreigners want to buy to build hotels, “here we do not sell it, we give it in usufruct, and it can be long-term,” he said, admitting that “this sometimes makes it difficult for investors to come to Cuba.”