Cuba: Co-op growth slows
Article by Anca Voinea
12 February 2016
As Cuba continues its efforts to open to more trade, the number of new
co-ops being set up has decreased.
According to figures released by the country’s National Statistics
Office, only 22 new co-operatives were created last year in sectors
other than agriculture. This represents a decrease from 2014, when 147
co-operatives were set up. Cuba currently has 367 non-agricultural
co-operatives, 193 of which are in the capital Havana.
Around 131 co-operatives are in the commercial sector, 91 are
restaurants, 61 in building and 49 in manufacture. The government
announced it would convert another 230 restaurants to co-operative
ownership this year.
However, only 21% of economic reforms announced in 2010 have so far been
implemented. The number of self-employed workers in Cuba has dropped to
496,400, from 504,600 six months ago.
The chief of the Union of Enterprises and Trade in Gastronomy, Idalmi
Marti?nez, told EFE that these co-op and self-employed ventures tend to
provide better services but that this was reflected in higher prices.
Limited production and greater demand have determined an increase in
prices, particularly in the food sector. Workers in the public sector
have seen food prices increase at a higher rate than their salaries. To
address food inflation the government is buying and distributing more
food at fixed prices. Outlets selling basic food at fixed prices will be
opened in each of Havana’s 105 districts.
Meanwhile US President Barack Obama announced on 27 January a third
round of unilateral measures to further loosen the US trade embargo on
the island. Obama’s lifting of key US sanctions on Cuba has opened new
opportunities for the co-operative sectors in the two countries. NCBA
Clusa, the national umbrella organisation for co-operatives in the US,
recently joined a list of organisations and associations partnering with
Engage Cuba, a working coalition on US – Cuba policy. A US-Cuba
Cooperative Working Group has also been set up to promote engagement
between the US and Cuban co-operative sector.
“We believe that working in partnership with Engage Cuba will strengthen
all of our efforts to remove barriers to trade and other partnerships
with our Cuban counterparts,” said Amy Coughenour Betancourt, chief
operating officer of NCBA CLUSA and head of the USCCWG. “Cuban
co-operatives are interested in improving their businesses, creating
jobs, and opening up markets on the island and with the U.S. We are here
to support that.”
Initial estimations of the Cuban government foresaw that the country
would have 10,000 co-ops by 2017.
Source: Cuba: Co-op growth slows –