Tighter Rules Threaten Cuba’s Independent Clothes Sellers

Cuba’s privately run clothes stores range from folding furniture piled with accessories on a front porch to glass-fronted, air-conditioned shops filled with the latest Latino styles. In the three years because the island’s communist federal government extended the opportunities for private business, the clothes stores have sprung up across Cuba, usually offering a wider choice and cheaper price than state-run alternatives.

But now the government has announced it is tensing the trading rules, leaving thousands of retailers facing the loss of their licenses and their livelihood. Victor, in the porch of his central Havana home where he create shop three years ago. I’ve spent big money here. Exactly what will I really do Now? Stall-holder in Havana The amended rules were published in the government’s official gazette and specify that the clothes sellers, whose licenses define them as dressmakers and tailors, are banned from selling imported fashions.

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Victor points out, as customers browse rows of brightly colored shorts, shoes and baseball caps. Officially, folks are prohibited to import items on the market. But Cuba does not have any wholesale provision because of its nascent private sector, so unlicensed suppliers run systems of “mules”, people who hand-carry everything from clothing to computer parts into the nationwide country. Victor, whose stock is from Panama and the US mainly.

But now the Communist Party newspaper Granma has up to date license-holders that by selling imported clothes they may be breaking regulations, meaning that as much as 20,000 stores must close. Victor, bemused – like many – at the sudden change. It comes despite a authorities focus on of moving 1.5 million employees off the bloated state payroll and into the newly extended private sector.

And it is a focus on they are remote from reaching, having issued 436 just,342 private licenses up to now – 18% which are for workers who have kept their state-sector jobs. Many shopkeepers say there is an easy answer to the problem. They suggest the federal government simply alters the licences from “seamstress” to “clothes-seller” and charge higher taxes, benefitting the government, and allowing them to stay static in business. But officials demand the new measure will “bring order” to the non-state sector and put an end to illegal methods.

They point to the authorization of ten additional business activities, including allowing visitors to setup as estate agents, as proof of the state’s continued commitment to growing “non-state” work. But Cuba’s new breed of retailers identify an ulterior purpose. Anecdotal evidence suggests sales in drab and poorly stocked condition stores have slumped often.

He is sporting a bag decorated with the UK’s Union flag, a relic from last year’s big major development. Then, it was the private suppliers who fed demand specifically, sourcing and supplying the fashion-conscious with customised T-shirts, belts and shoes. Omar Everleny, of the state-run Centre for the scholarly research of the Cuban Overall economy. He calls your choice to revoke the licenses “one”.