Since some 3 years ago, thousands of self-employed in Cuba started, under the license of “dressmaker or tailor,” to invest in businesses of selling clothes, shoes, lingerie and many other imported products.
In September 2013, the Ministry of Labour and Social Security (MTSS) “redefined” this license clarifying that “does not include the marketing of industrial or imported clothing ” and, according to José Barreiro, advisor to the Minister of MTSS, the measure entered “into force for immediate execution.”
However, weeks later the Executive Committee of the Council of Ministers agreed to extend the operation of these convenience stores of imported clothing until the last day of the year-about two months-which would allow self-employed to liquidate their inventories and recoup some of the investment.
Referring to the topic, Cuban President Raul Castro in his recent speech to the National Assembly of People’s Power, said:
” Recent events have highlighted inadequate control by the government institutions in the face of illegalities in the exercise of self-employment , which were not confronted and resolved promptly , creating a climate of impunity which in turn stimulated the rapid growth of activities that had never been authorized in the scope defined for certain occupations . “
“Legal, illegal”, and after December 31 what?
“We do not know what we will do. Our hope is that they tell us they will change the name of the license or create another, although we must pay in hard currency … it is not for us to stop selling, “I was told by one saleswoman at the “La caridad” private market, belonging to the state Basic Trade Unit of the Municipality of Centro Habana, located on Galiano Street.
With 31 people who rent spaces for the sale of clothing and other products, shoes, lingerie, jewelry, etc.. Everything is imported; “Caridad” is run from three years ago by Wilfredo Gonzalez, who regarding the “redefinition “of the “dressmaker or tailor” license tells us:” It is an uncertainty; we do not know what will happen. Everyone keeps their strategy, either silent, and keep the faith that the state somehow allows them to continue selling. “
“Caridad” is one of many areas of concentration for self-employed persons operating in the island, especially in Havana. Here, for example, a concession stand of four square meters is leased to the Company of Commerce of Central Havana for 1290 CUP month (about 52 CUC), plus each of the shelves where the products exhibit are rented on a separate payment.
“They once sold on porches,” Wilfredo Gonzalez clarifies me in his small local administrator,” and it was a pretty casual , ugly showcase. But three years ago the company undertook all repairs and organizational work was done with them. From that moment on this premises are the same people, who annually renew their contract “he said.
But things regarding “illegal legal” do not stop there. The ” bad control by government institutions in the face of illegalities in the exercise of self-employment ” has been so great – or appropriate – that, in “Caridad” , there is a direct delegate to the nearby Congress Central workers of Cuba (CTC ) , for those who work there , though they exert ” activities that were never authorized ” are members of the Union of Light Industry and according to Wilfredo they expect their representative to talk “for the group, but also for many more workers. “
What will happen to these workers? To prohibit “resolute and timely ” or legalize with appropriate regulations ?
Private and state: Imported Clothing
From countries like Mexico, United States, Ecuador, Haiti and others, Cuban residents and non-residents on the island travel to the island with luggage full of clothes, shoes, and few products can be marketed here.
Wondering a little on mechanisms to “import” using “mules”-those who enter this country merchandise as part of their luggage-I found a friend who has brought for years jewelry and textiles from Ecuador.
“This year I went only once, because it is the only once when I pay customs in CUP. Then you have to pay in CUC whatever amounts and it doesn’t make sense for me anymore. But, for example, this time I invested roughly U.S. $ 2500, with which you can make about a thousand, a thousand and a bit when I get here. “
My friend has residence in Ecuador, which allows him to travel as often as desired. A few years ago going every month to find goods, legally bought and brought legally to Cuba to get up to double the investment. “And yet I sold and still sell cheaper than state dollar stores.”
“Look, it is simple. I can bring 120 pounds: 30 free, 30 overweight which I pay at the office, and the other 60 I sent in the control freighter of Cubana . And, for example, I cannot bring more than 40 pants, according to the law that they passed some years ago referred to a limit for determining the Commercial Character of imports undertaken by individuals, published in December 2011 by the General Customs of the Republic, and I try to distribute them in different briefcases, and I cannot mark them as ” commercial.” So I do with everything else and it gives me results. “
And it gives so good results that almost all clothing and footwear used in Cuba today comes from these “importers – sellers ” because the other side of table, dollar stores sell their products to an average of 240% markup on its actual price.
Inappropriate controls or absurd blind eyes?
Still, if we accept that the license was never designed for these activities, such business generates capital flight, and most of the money produced by sales within Cuba only circulates in the street, never become taxable or enter state accountability, then how increased so much the number of self-employed with this license?
The real “dressmaker or tailor” who “manufactures, manages and transforms clothes, and performs simple and complex work of tailoring and sewing ” as the law requires for its exercise an entire clothing and basic raw materials which are not possible to purchase at all in Cuba.
Emiliano Nelson is a renowned Cuban designer and tailor that specializes in the manufacture of guayaberas . From Nelson’s hands have come guayaberas for important personalities like the late President Hugo Chavez. But Nelson , even when he is not a self-employed , but Independent Creator of the Cuban Association of Craft Artists (ACAA ) doesn’t escape the difficulties of any commodity tailor or dressmaker – the real ones , even when the Cuban Fund of Cultural Assets ( BFC ) provides certain facilities supplies.
“It’s a difficult issue. You may find fabrics in store, but usually these are purchased from excess fabric left from foreign factories, so they do not fit our needs, is “whatever there is.” The guayabera , for example, requires special fabrics (linen, yarn , cotton) , and do not appear in stores, or do not have the necessary quality, not the colors , which are very few, if any is usable, or threads , that no have appropriate gauges … the main problem is that you don’t find what you need for your work and have to adapt to what exists. “
Nor with retail prices-almost always-Emiliano Nelson finds preferences, although through the BFC he manages to buy some slightly cheaper materials.
So if there has been no market or materials … so many “tailors and dressmakers” were possible in the statistics of the Ministry of Labour and Social Security?
Starting this January 1, sales of clothing and other articles imported must cease by law. However, those who bought and sold under this license, who are owners of millimeter knowledge of their consumers with efficient and productive mechanisms of import and sale do not seem to want to comply with the ultimatum and continued supplying regularly.
Therefore, the only possible result of this measure will be the re-creation of a black market for the products that until December 31 were even legally sold with minimal tax through licenses such as “seamstress or tailor “.
According to data provided by the end of 2013, the self-employment contributes only 2% to the state budget, which shows that it is still not a significant force in the economy, a situation that must be reversed for the sake of increased production and generation of social wealth. But how can this be achieved by prohibiting subjecting reality to ideal, proactive situations, or legalizing and regulating reality?