Searching for Solutions in Cuba, Even if Only Small Scale

HAVANA, May 15th (HT) The CubaEmprende project, in collaboration with AUGE (a business consultancy), has published a document with a detailed compilation of the initiatives that numerous private businesses have carried out in recent months to collaborate from various fronts in Cuba’s fight against the coronavirus.

The documented, disseminated through their social networks, aims to collect information to show the role that small businesses can play — included are small businesses not yet legally recognized — from different perspectives in the sustainable development of the Cuban nation.

Many of the Cuban private enterprises are collaborating at the local level to meet needs in the face of the unprecedented circumstances caused by COVID-19. There is a vast catalogue of examples offered: from the production of safety equipment for medical personnel on the front lines of the battle against the disease to the expansion of delivery systems for numerous products for those isolated at home, the manufacture of face masks, and even the donation of products — especially food and grooming essentials.

Ideas included in the brochure were judged using two simple criteria: that they showed the value of the entrepreneurial community in the current circumstances, and that they were of public knowledge.

Later the series will continue its publications with other initiatives of this type that were not registered in this first edition, according to William Bello Sánchez, coordinator of the Oasis program for Corporate Social Responsibility of the CubaEmprende project.

So far, Professor Bello Sánchez believes the private sector has operated in the country under a situation where demand is greater than supply, which has allowed it to grow, even with restrictions. It is a sector that has fostered the diversification of products and services, which satisfies numerous needs and expectations of different market segments, and which has also generated the largest number of jobs in the last decade with wages above Cuba’s official average income.

Bello Sánchez says the private sector has “created jobs for half a million Cubans.” In addition, he says, taxes collected are significant and constitute an important resource for the state to project different investments for social and developmental benefits.

“Small businesses, even if they do not have the capacity for large production or infrastructure, are more flexible and adapt faster, which can be very useful to several links in our production chains, even with the current legislative framework. Public-private partnerships could more efficiently increase the strength of each sector, thus reducing imports and increasing the added value of national products,” he stressed.

The brochure itself shows that the capitalization of creativity, innovation and knowledge “must be thought of as highly desirable for the economic growth of the country, whatever sector of the economy and society it comes from, in order to grease the wheels of development.”

According to CubaEmprende, some of the main obstacles to the development of the private sector in Cuba continue to be:

  • A legislative framework with a list of activities that restricts the development of numerous initiatives that have arisen in the sector and a tax burden that does not stimulate job growth.
  • The absence of a wholesale market and the shortages that the country suffers in general.
  • The Trump administration measures against Cuba, which ended the period of greatest prosperity in the sector and limited access to goods and raw materials.
  • The delay in the legal recognition of what is considered the self-employed workers to SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) of many existing businesses, and the relationships that they can establish.

Bello Sánchez says that fundamentally “the biggest obstacle is subjective. The private sector is still viewed with hostility. Many look to the sector for problems rather than solutions.”

The Cuba Emprende project comes about as an initiative of the Archbishopric of Havana. The Oasis program has promoted social responsibility in business as a culture to raise the well-being and active participation of the company in sustainable development. To this end, training and consultation, and connecting with entrepreneurs and visualizing socially responsible business management in Cuba, have been the fundamental routes used.