Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Risky Business


Every living room, bedroom, corner, doorway or window seems to be a business opportunity for a Cuban these days. Of course, I don't know what regulations these small businesses have to comply with in order to operate but I understand that it has only been in the last couple of years that having a B&B, or fruit stand or meat market or a window where you sell desserts has been possible. Having them as part of the streetscape makes some great photographic opportunities.


On the other hand it doesn't necessarily mean that the Cuban economy is in good shape especially if the business isn't frequented by tourists. Associated Press reports that the Lack of Customers Dooms Many Small Businesses in Cuba.

Another issue that they face is that the rules keep changing. Some Cubans have used their life savings to carve out a little business in a room in their house by selling imported toiletries or imported used clothing. However, Labor Ministry official Jose Barreiro Alfonso recently told Communist Party newspaper Granma that it's necessary to "impose order" in the retail sector, and it will be a crime to "obtain merchandise or other objects for the purpose of resale for profit." So within the next few months they will have to close their business or face criminal charges.

That is what is happening to the common people but the Cuban government is doing big business developing tourism. The Havana Times reported on two huge business ventures, one with China and the other with the UK. That doesn't mean that larger businesses are without risk. The Cuban government has arrested and held several foreign business men for two or more years. The Canadian Broadcast Company reported that "President Raul Castro has said that rooting out rampant corruption is one of the country's most important challenges. Dozens of Cuban government officials and state company executives have been imprisoned for graft, while more than 150 foreign business people and scores of small foreign companies have been kicked out of the country."

The enterprising people who are starting small business out of their homes have my admiration. Doing business in Cuba, whether small or large is Risky Business.

11 comments:

  1. Interesting information about doing business in Mexico. And very interesting photo as well of the man with his hand on the awning........

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    1. Barbara, I know you meant to write doing business in Cuba. While I was there what was happening on the surface seemed very smooth but doing business there is risky. Thanks I like the photo of the man with his hand on the awning. I'll probably print that one. I love the green paint and the blue car.

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  2. The key is your observation that the "rules keep changing." In the past the government allowed family-owned farmers markets which flourished, perhaps too much to the government's liking, and were subsequently shut down. But you're right that the trend seems to favor small enterprises. BTW, what was the man with his shirt rolled up selling, mangos or himself? LOL

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    1. He had been working on the blue car. I think he was just cooling off. But then again.....maybe not. LOL

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  3. Could you understand any of the Spanish there? I've always found Cuban Spanish to be nearly incomprehensible.

    Great photos!

    Saludos,

    Kim G
    Boston, MA
    Where we once hired a Cuban guy for yard work and could barely make heads nor tails of what he was saying.

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    1. My Spanish is horrible but I did not recognize what they were saying as the Spanish language. At a restaurant I asked for a limonada as did several others in the group. The waitress repeated the order and said lemonad with no accent anywhere in the word that I could determine. Also, we noticed a number of different words, like no parquero for prohibido estacionar or no estacionamiento. I have a Cuban friend who I saw while I was there and she did not grow up in Havana. She said that sometimes she even has trouble understanding people in Havana.

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  4. The photograph of the fruit stand, the car, and the man is perfect. Your framing is impeccable. And there is not a hint of cliche. Best of all, I could easily identify it as being Cuba at one glance. You know how to work that camera, girl.

    Raul seems to know what he needs to do to reform the Cuban economy, but he just cannot bring himself to do the right thing. Small businesses are encouraged on the surface. But all goods must be purchased from a government supplier. That is why the home businesses are often closed. They get their goods from people muling them in from The States.

    But a new day is inevitably coming. Just as it did for Mexico with the introduction of free markets and political reform.

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  5. Thank you Steve.
    I keep hoping that a new day will come for Cuba. These old men from the Revolution in Havana and Miami are starting to die off. Maybe the younger generation will be able to find a better way for the Cubans. However, Cuba faces a lot of problems in HOW to open the door to investment and not be over run and end up with a very stratified economy.

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  6. Thank you for posting your photos and thoughts on Cube. We spent a week there, much too short a time, back in 2010. Next time we will spend a couple of weeks exploring Old Havana. I love the sights and sounds of Cuba, it is a smorgasbord for the senses.

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    1. The more I read about Cuba the more the whole island interests me. There is a lot to explore.

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